WASHINGTON — The front line forces who would be the first to go into combat or confront adversaries have been tested for COVID-19 and have a clean bill of health, the Pentagon’s top military officer said Tuesday.
Strategic forces were the first to be tested in the ranks, Gen. Mark Milley told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday. Also included in the Tier One testing were homeland defense personnel, he said.
Testing for Tier Two is now underway for troops in combat zones, Milley said. Tier Three testing will follow, for those just deployed or returning, with Tier Four testing to cover all other forces.
“There is not a need to test the entire force,” Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Instead, the Pentagon is planning to test a selection of asymptomatic personnel across the force to better grasp how COVID-19 has mood throughout the ranks, he said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, speaking at the same briefing, said that “Sentinel testing” will have groups of service members randomly tested to “understand how many asymptomatic carriers are out there.”
The military will “test just in case” to “see if there’s carriers,” which will help “sharpen our focus,” Esper said.
At the moment the Pentagon can test about 20,000 people per week. Esper said the goal is to conduct about 56,000 tests per week, with the number constantly in flux.
Esper also said the Pentagon will be dealing with local officials in states such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas, with multiple military bases, on how to limit COVID-19 when things begin to reopen. He said there will be statewide policies for bases, with each commander having authority to tweak the guidance to develop their own criteria based on the local situation