National Guard Ramps Up Virus Effort as Trump Waives State Costs

The National Guard ramped up its role in containing the coronavirus in the U.S., with 7,300 troops deployed across the country to combat the outbreak as President Donald Trump ordered new force activations to aid California, New York and Washington state.

The president’s order on Sunday will waive the typical cost-sharing arrangement where the federal government pays 75% of the costs and states pay the remaining 25%. The move affects the three states most impacted by the virus so far but could quickly be extended to other states, said General Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“States aren’t used to disasters that last this long,” Lengyel said during a telephone briefing to reporters on Sunday night. “Normally they pay for these things out of state emergency budgets.”

The president’s move keeps the national guard troops under state — not federal — authority, known as Title 32, which allows them to be used by states and localities for assistance in law enforcement. Lengyel said states remain best suited to direct the response and the arrangement will increase the speed of deployments.

The Guard’s role has ballooned nationwide since Thursday when it had about 2,000 troops deployed in 27 states. Now, troops in all 50 states are involved in combating the virus in some way, Lengyel said.

But Lengyel repeatedly rejected any plans or discussions for the Guard to enforce quarantines or lockdowns across the country, citing false postings on social media that allegedly show trains loaded with Guard equipment headed to quarantine areas.

“There is just no truth to this rumor that people are considering or the governors are planning or anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard mobilized or non-mobilized, Title 32 or state active-duty in any case to do some sort of a military action to enforce shelter in place and quarantine,” he said.

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