- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Top defense leaders are assuring troops that coronavirus testing is available, but for Pentagon warriors the coveted test is “scarce,” according to an internal memo. 

The Pentagon Governance Council held an anti-virus battle meeting on Monday where it heard the assessment.

“COVID-19 testing is scarce, many people are simply being told to go home and self-isolate,” said the memo obtained by The Washington Times. 

“Expect this to continue,” added the memo, written by a participant and circulated to “senior leaders.”

It said that the the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo medical clinic is, “Only conducting tests for first responders and medical personnel.”

The Pentagon is also working to reduce its population, shifting 19,000 of 26,000 military and civilian personnel to at-home work stations. The building’s population now stands at about 7,000. 

“Good number, but still too high,” briefed the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

On another anti-virus front, the memo said, ”Cleaning contractors now clean high-touch public spaces twice daily.”

Ask about the scarcity of testing, a Pentagon spokesperson told The Times:

“We are not going to comment on internal deliberations of Pentagon leadership.  What I can tell you is that DiLorenzo Clinic is pre-screening everyone at the entrance, and anyone who is determined to be symptomatic for COVID-19 is tested.

Regarding the population currently working at the Pentagon, we are not going to discuss specific numbers.  What I can tell you is that we are encouraging maximum telework, and that each DoD component makes the determination on their personnel needs for accomplishing their mission essential functions.”

On Tuesday, the armed forces top leaders, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, held at a Pentagon town hall.

“If you’re feeling like you’ve got the flu, then you probably should get tested for coronavirus.

“Again, we’re in flu season,” Gen. Milley said. “You’re in allergy season. You’re in cold season, and then there’s this coronavirus. So they mimic each other in terms of their symptoms, but if you’re symptomatic, by all means, get tested, and we do have the capacity throughout the Department of Defense and the commercial or the civilian world, to get tested now. So if you’re having those symptoms, you should get tested. If you’re not having those symptoms, then you don’t need to be tested.”

Mr. Esper added, “So we see, again, as the system ramps up, the availability will increase dramatically. The turnaround time with regard to results will increase dramatically. But at the same time, if you don’t need to be tested, don’t get tested.”

The nation has suffered a COVID-19 test shortages since the virus first landed in Washington State on Jan. 13 via a traveler from Wuhan, China. The White House now says the symptomatic have received over 300,000 tests nationwide.


• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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