Department of Defense Press Briefing on COVID-19 Response
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Joint Staff Surgeon Air Force Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs
Hey, good afternoon everybody, appreciate everybody who’s here in the briefing room today, and then I understand we have about a dozen reporters who are on the phone line, so we will give our first crack at a televised press conference. So thanks for being here.
As the situation continues to evolve around the COVID-19 outbreak, we wanted to get you information about the changes happening in the department impacting our service members. I’ll give a few updates and then Dr. Friedrichs and myself will take some of your questions.
First, I want to start with the latest DoD coronavirus numbers. As of 0500 today, there have been 37 reported cases, 18 military, 13 dependents, three civilian, and three contractors. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we’ll provide updates each day as we receive them.
As you know, on Friday the Deputy Secretary Norquist released additional guidance on domestic travel for service members and DoD personnel. Effective today through May 11, all domestic travel for military personnel will be halted unless it meets one of a number of waiver criteria including mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons. This will also restrict DoD civilian hiring on DoD installations to persons who live within the immediate commuting area of the facility.
The Secretary continues to state his top priority during the outbreak is to protect service members and their families and to maintain our ability to complete our central mission, and we’re going to take — continue to take all of those efforts.
I wanted to give a couple of additional updates. Today, the department has given authority to the local commissary store directors to impose restrictions on purchasing high-demand products. This will be done in coordination with base leadership. The department is working to make sure that service members and their families living on base understand these changes and have access to the goods that they need.
Finally, I want to give you guys some updates on what we’re doing here in the building. Starting today, the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary are remaining physically separated, so we are attempting to put a — for lack of a better term, a — a bubble around the two of them. That means that they and their staffs will only interact via teleconference. We’re screening people that are entering the Secretary’s suite and limiting the number of people who have access, as well.
Earlier today, the CMO team — I think some of you may have been on that — hosted a tele-town hall for residents of the Pentagon Reservation to address protective measures that we’ve put in place. They got a bunch of really good questions from people on the Reservation, which includes this building, as well as, I believe, 78 other buildings in the National Capital region, talking about force protection, health protection measures. We’re going to do — continue to do events like that here and around the country to keep our people informed.
At this time, I want to just thank a number of people who have been working on this problem for — for many weeks now. So I believe we’ve had teams at a number of different bases working on coronavirus issues, providing HHS — support to HHS.
At Dobbins, Miramar, Lackland and Travis, those teams have done an outstanding job in what has been a very demanding situation and they’ve continued to do — to do a great job and everyone here at the Department appreciates that.
And then last, I want to the custodial staff at the Pentagon. They’ve been asked over the last few weeks to really step up what they’ve done to — to help limit the spread of any infectious disease here. And so I think as you guys have seen, they’re increasing their rounds and increasing the type of work they’re doing and that is to everybody’s benefit here and we appreciate that.
source: The Pentagon