Pence: Defense Department is Ready to Help With Augmenting Hospitals

March 19, 2020 Updated: March 19, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence said the Army Corps of Engineers are on standby to help expand hospital capacity during the current pandemic of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at a March 17 White House news conference along-side President Donald Trump, the vice president spoke about the situations in which the Defense Department could be called on to help with the health emergency.

Earlier in the day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the Corps to help as the state’s leaders figure out the most effective means to treat those stricken with the virus, including resolving bed shortages.

The vice president said that as governors make requests for federal assistance, those requests are processed immediately, and shared with the president.

“The President directed us to work with the Department of Defense. There are two ways that DoD can be helpful in terms of expanding medical capacity,” Pence told reporters. “I know the governor of New York has asked us to look at the Army Corps of Engineer which could perhaps renovate existing buildings.”

Trump said at the briefing that he gave the governors the right to order additional emergency medical supplies directly if they want, “knocking-out” the bureaucracy. “It’s very direct but it’s still always faster to order directly.”

Pence said that the DoD would help both with medical supplies and augmenting hospitals.

“There are two different lanes that DOD can provide, in addition to many medical supplies to augment our national reserves. And the President has tasked us to evaluate, make available, and to consider every—every request from governors for either field hospitals, expanding facilities, or the Army Corps of Engineer that could retrofit existing buildings.”

“The President also has us inventorying what you all would understand as field hospitals, or MASH hospitals, that can be deployed very quickly,” Pence said. “We spoke with Governor Inslee yesterday in Washington State. We have resources in that part of the country that we can move.”

Trump added, “The Army Corps is very prepared to do as we say, and we’re looking at where it’s going. But—and they do call them MASH hospitals, but the field hospitals go up very quickly. They’re—we have them. We have all of this equipment in stock.”

Trump emphasized that he is working with Governors from various states, including Cuomo. “We think we can have quite a few units up very rapidly. I’m going to work with Governor Cuomo. I’m going to work with a number of the governors.”

According to the John Hopkins coronavirus tracker, the hardest hit states are Washington with 50 deaths, New York with 12 deaths, and California with 11 deaths.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aware of the request made by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,” a spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said in a statement to the Epoch Times. “USACE is prepared to assist the nation in a time of crisis to the very best of its capabilities, and we are postured to lean forward when an official request is received through the Department of Defense.”

“As a precautionary measure, USACE has begun assessing our capabilities in this area in conjunction with our partners. At this time, however, USACE has not been assigned a COVID-19 support mission.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers is ready, willing and able,” the President reiterated. “We have to give them to go ahead if we find that it’s going to be necessary.”