Hundreds of National Guard members have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, Politico reported.
In response to the Jan. 6 riots and President Joe Biden’s Inauguration, more than 25,000 National Guardsmen were deployed to the United States Capitol. Both plans for COVID-19 testing and vaccination were scattered and varied among different units, according to Politico.
Leadership for the National Guard did not release official numbers, but lawmakers worry that this was a superspreader event, Politico reported.
Upon arrival to the Capitol, all Guardsmen were reportedly screened for COVID-19, but not all of them were given actual tests. Several units were screened with temperature checks and questions about exposure, while others were forced to find their own tests.
“We did not get Covid tests on arrival. Right after the holidays they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this,” a Guardsman said, according to Politico.
Social distancing became nearly impossible as Guardsmen were in close quarters in the Capitol building. This became even worse Thursday when members were reportedly forced to rest in parking garages. One unit of nearly 5,000 troops was in a parking garage with no internet and one bathroom for all of them, Politico reported. The Senate Rules Committee is now investigating that decision. (RELATED: Meghan McCain Says ‘Shame On All Our Lawmakers’ Over 5,000 Troops ‘Sleeping In A Garage’)
When reports of this broke, several Governors called for action and some even called for their return.
I have instructed General Norris to order the return of the Texas National Guard to our state. @TexasGuard
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 22, 2021
After that exposure, hundreds of members now find themselves COVID-19 positive. There has been no clear protocol on how to deal with Guardsmen who test positive. Some members are quarantining in nearby hotels, while others will be transported home with other COVID-19 positive members, Politico reported.
One Guardsman told Politico that some members were told to cut their quarantine short or not do it at all due to the need for additional troops for the Inauguration.
CDC guidelines for exposure are being “completely disregarded,” one Guard member reportedly said.
Congressional leadership is pushing to have all 25,000 troops tested in the coming days, according to Politico, both those who are leaving to return home and those who will be staying at the Capitol.
“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. Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms,” Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said.
While some National Guard members had the option of getting the vaccine, others did not, Politico reported. Some are scheduled to receive their first dose Friday. At this time, the National Guard has no standardized plan to vaccinate all of the troops that were deployed.