Washington – Crammed like canned sardines and with an outbreak of COVID-19 that affects at least a hundred soldiers is how the thousands of members of the National Guard (a reserve corps) are deployed in the Washington Capitol, according to media communication of the country.
Three members of that body told the Politico medium that at least one hundred members of the National Guard stationed in Washington DC after the assault on the Capitol on January 6 by followers of former President Donald Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus and some are quarantining in nearby hotels.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage … ”one Guardsman said https://t.co/2QneUNtBDe pic.twitter.com/Q8lZzP7hHVRELATED
– POLITICO (@politico) January 22, 2021
At the moment, the National Guard has not reported the number of cases, although there are fears that COVID-19 has spread very quickly among the 25,000 troops that have come to be deployed in the center of the capital.
After Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday as president, more than 10,000 troops remain on duty, while another 15,000 are expected to return home in the coming days, defense officials said Thursday.
Soldiers taking COVID tests on their own
According to Politico, the National Guard has found it difficult to implement a plan to test soldiers, some of whom have had to be tested for the disease on their own.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that hundreds of members of the National Guard deployed to the Capitol spent Thursday night sleeping on the ground in garages outside the Congress compound.
WATCH: National Guard troops leave the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage after US Capitol Police temporarily relocated their rest area. Troops have since returned to the Capitol. – @MoshehNBC pic.twitter.com/ZpL1RxbY3a
– NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2021
After the scandal caused by the photos released by the media of the soldiers sleeping on the concrete of a parking lot, this Friday they were allowed to rest inside the buildings of the Capitol complex.
Two uniformed officers told the Post that on Thursday afternoon they were relocated without explanation in a garage where there was hardly any space, cars passed nearby, they were exposed to fumes and there were few toilets.
Before Thursday, troops could spend their time relaxing inside the Capitol. However, they had to do whatever they could by sleeping on the concrete or carpeted floors within those facilities, or even on nearby indoor tennis courts.
Difficulty finding a place to sleep
Members of the National Guard have hotel rooms, but soldiers are typically on duty for a day or two, shifts of a few hours, and cannot easily return to their quarters, many of which are outside the District of Columbia. in the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.
A spokesman for the National Guard, Wayne Hall, quoted by The Washington Post, indicated that “the unfortunate request that the National Guard be relocated (for its moments of rest in parking lots) was made without the knowledge of the leaders of the Congress”.
“This morning, many of the rest areas used by the National Guard that is on duty in the Capitol are inside the buildings” of the complex, he said.
Criticism of the congressmen
Photographs of soldiers crammed into parking lots have drawn criticism from lawmakers themselves.
The leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, affirmed this Friday that he had spoken with those responsible for the security of the Capitol so that “this does not happen again.”
“I promise every member of the National Guard that it will not happen again,” Schumer said in the floor.
In fact, the Rules Committee of the Upper House is investigating the relocation of soldiers in parking lots for their moments of rest, although above all they want to find out if the appropriate precautions were applied against COVID-19, the senator from Missouri revealed to Politico. Roy Blunt, the highest ranking Republican on this commission.
After the inauguration of Biden, the challenge now is the return of all those troops to the states, which sent reinforcements to Washington DC.
Some members of the National Guard, such as members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, were offered the option of receiving the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine before deploying to Washington, while there were those who received the serum la Last week and others will be given the first dose this Friday.
Even so, this body still does not have a standardized plan to vaccinate all the troops that return to their homes.