WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials said Monday its military labs are working to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus and that is has given fun commanders full authorities to take all needed steps to restrict military personnel from exposure to possible infected civilian populations.
“Pandemic is the worst-case” scenario, Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters on Monday. He and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is preparing for a “wide variety of scenarios” involving coronavirus.
Milley said the virus impact on military personnel has been “very minimal” in large part because the bulk of the military population is young, health and well-vaccinated
“That’s not to say it’s zero, but it’s very, very minimal,” Milley said.
Military personnel have been restricted to bases and in hot-spot areas, such as northern Italy and South Korea, additional measures are being taken, Milley said. He said the Pentagon is restricting travel in certain areas of responsibility and that focused decisions, such as the cancellation of USS Eisenhower port stop in Italy, are among examples of such steps.
The Pentagon had previously announced the suspension of a military exercise in South Korea. However, Milley said large scale military exercises planned for Thailand and Europe are still set to go.
Protective gear and test kits are being distributed to U.S. military facilities with a priority on distribution to the Korean Peninsula, Milley said.
He also said there would be restrictions on military-civilian events in such areas as Ft. Lewis, Washington. At least six persons in Washington state near Ft. Lewis have died from the COVID-19.
Other Pentagon officials, speaking on background, said Monday the Pentagon was concerned about interaction of U.S. military personnel with international officials who travel through contagious airports and areas who may be exposed to COVID-19 and become carriers. Some of the concerns center in the Middle East, where persons who have visited Iran, a large epicenter for the virus, are traveling throughout the Middle East.
For example, representatives of the World Bank are among the most frequent travelers and would face high exposure to the virus, and subsequently become a risk for exposing the virus to thousands, Pentagon officials said.
On Monday, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund said in a statement they were ready to help member countries address the human and economic challenges of COVID-19, including through emergency funding.
“International cooperation is essential to deal with the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 virus. The IMF and the World Bank Group are fully committed to providing the support that people in our member countries expect from us.,” the joint statement said.
However, the groups did not outline steps they are taking or plan to take to reduce travel and exposure to the virus — including the danger that their headquarters in Washington, D.C., could become COVID-19 hotspots.
Asked about those steps and the potential danger David Theis, a spokesperson for the World Bank, in a phone interview with Talk Media News, referred to the news statement. When noted it does not address the issue, Theis acknowledged that and said, “I don’t have anything for you on that right now.”