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Pentagon to send 540 more troops to southern border amid coronavirus concerns

Pentagon to send 540 more troops to southern border amid coronavirus concerns

The Trump administration will send an additional 540 troops to the southern border “very soon” to aid federal border agents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according top military officials. 

U.S. Army North head Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson told reporters at the Pentagon that the increase is "specifically related to COVID-19."

The military has been working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection to provide the extra troops “so as to be able to help them enforce their orders to secure against potential COVID positive migrants coming over the border,” U.S. Northern Command lead Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said. 

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“As we look at trying to seal off the external potential for COVID exposure to our U.S. citizens, there’s actually an increased demand signal, not a decreased demand signal for securing the southern border,” O’Shaughnessy added.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperBiden needs to fill the leadership gaps on Day One US meets troops reduction goal in Afghanistan, Iraq Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE approved a DHS request seeking the 540 troops, Reuters first reported late Tuesday.

The United States already has roughly 5,000 military personnel at the border who perform non-law enforcement duties.

As cases of the coronavirus have surged in America, President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE in March announced that nonessential travel would be restricted at the Canada and Mexico borders.

The pandemic has not stopped wall construction at the southern border, however, which is going ahead as scheduled in Arizona even as other states across the country shut down nonessential construction.

The Trump administration has said the wall will stop the spread of the virus into the United States from Mexico.

Heath experts, however, argue that a physical barrier will do little to prevent further spread of the illness, which is already widespread in the United States with more than 206,000 recorded cases compared to Mexico’s 1,215.