Defense

Top Pentagon officials estimate coronavirus crisis could last months

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Top Pentagon leaders on Tuesday estimated that the coronavirus outbreak could last months, as the number of military service members with confirmed cases continues to climb.

“I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long, at least, and we’re taking all precautionary measures to do that,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a virtual town hall meeting at the Pentagon.

“I’m fully confident that at the end of the day, in a period of months, we will get through this.”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley estimated that it might be as late as July before the crisis abates.

“Call it three months, based on what we know from other countries,” Milley said alongside Esper. “We’re going to do this as long as the mission takes.”

The predictions from military officials came the same week that President Trump signaled he would soon work to loosen guidelines for certain areas of the United States, a move that some worry would undercut much of the advice from medical experts about steps needed to contain the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday morning, the number of coronavirus cases in the military had surpassed 300, according to the Pentagon. Included in the tally are 174 service members, 59 civilian employees, 61 family members and 27 contractors. One contractor died Saturday.

The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 46,000 Americans and killed nearly 600, with dire effects on the U.S. economy, as well.

To help stop the spread, the Pentagon on Monday put more restrictions in place for entering the building in Northern Virginia.

Asked on Tuesday how long employees will be expected to telework, Esper replied, “it’s going to be weeks for sure, maybe months.”

“We’re going to telework as long as necessary to make sure that we’re beyond the coronavirus crisis, if you will,” he added.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Defense Department Donald Trump Mark Esper Pandemic Pentagon telework Virginia

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