Some Guard members have alleged they were not offered any COVID-19 tests
Almost 200 hundred members of the National Guard have contracted COVID-19, according to defense officials.
Approximately 26,000 troops were deployed to the nation’s capital from all 50 states ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. They were sent following the insurrection at the Capitol, in an abundance of caution due to fear Biden might be the target of an attack.
Members of the National Guard wear protective face masks and stand in a formation on the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
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The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the almost 7,000 troops sent to Biden’s inauguration were screened for COVID, but not all were tested. Consequently, a defense official told the outlet that almost 200 members had now fallen sick with the coronavirus and many are beginning to show symptoms of the airborne disease that is easily transmitted.
Due to the close proximity of the guards, at times shown in cramped quarters and sleeping in the halls of Congress, maintaining COVID-19 protocols became difficult. Testing will be conducted within the next few days for the full force.
Politico reported that National Guard members were frustrated that more was not done to ensure their health and well-being ahead of their arrival. Anonymous guards said they were forced to get their own COVID-19 tests and told to disregard guidelines about the disease due to the urgency of the impending inauguration.
“We did not get COVID tests on arrival,” said another Guard member. “Right after the holidays, they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this.”
Another service member grumbled that the circumstances made it particularly hard to practice social distancing.
Read More: At least 20 Capitol police officers test positive for COVID-19 after riot
“You should have seen late-coming states scavenge for space,” another Guardsman said. “It would have made a great sitcom: people literally making offices out of hallways and any unoccupied space.”
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage …” one Guardsman said https://t.co/2QneUNtBDe pic.twitter.com/Q8lZzP7hHV
— POLITICO (@politico) January 22, 2021
The number of guards testing positive for COVID-19 is more blowback for the organization after thousands of troops were told to leave the Capitol building post-inauguration. They were forced to sleep outside in parking garages with one restroom for about 5,000 guard members.
The decision to treat the Guards in such a manner brought bipartisan condemnation from lawmakers and the Senate Rules Committee is now investigating.
“Ideally, these guys should all be in hotels. When they’re taking rest time, they should be taking it outside the campus with an ability to be separated and socially distanced,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms.”
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden took time on Friday to acknowledge the sacrifices of the Guards. She visited them with baked goods.
“I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe … The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies,” she said.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: “I know that you’ve left your home states. The Bidens are a National Guard family,” noting that her late son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard.
“I’m a National Guard mom … I truly appreciate all that you do.” https://t.co/HWLfmeKrLO
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2021
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