The Defense Department is standing by to provide assistance to the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the coronavirus, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said today.
Hoffman said DOD is housing 198 people at March Air Reserve Base, California, and has identified housing support for up to 1,000 people at four bases who may need to be quarantined upon arrival from overseas travel, he said during a Pentagon news conference.
The department is not involved with treatment or observation of those at the facility; Health and Human Services is doing that. ''DOD personnel will not be in direct contact with these individuals nor will these individuals have direct access to the bases beyond the housing,'' Hoffman said.
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will speak with Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, to ensure the general has what he needs to support the effort, Hoffman said.
The four bases where people could be housed if they are quarantined are: the 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute in Fort Carson, Colorado; Travis Air Force Base, California; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a public health emergency of international concern, and U.S. officials are closely monitoring the situation.
The State Department has raised its travel advisory recommendation to ''do not travel'' to China, the epicenter of the outbreak. On Jan. 23, the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their families from the Chinese province of Wuhan.
Worldwide, more than 17,000 people have been infected by the virus and more than 350 have died from it; the vast majority of those infected are in China. Eleven people are infected in the United States.