Hundreds of National Guard soldiers test positive for Covid-19 or are quarantined in nearby hotels after possible exposure due to lack of social distancing measures, POLITICO reports.
Hundreds of National Guard troops have tested positive for Covid-19 or are quarantined at hotels after they were called to Washington, DC following the siege of Capitol Hill, a deployment that lawmakers and soldiers fear is becoming a superspreader gathering.
A number of the 25,000 troops standing guard around the US Capitol in recent days in the wake of the January 6 insurrection did not have access to Covid-19 tests, POLITICO reported on Friday, citing three Guard sources.
It said the US failed to implement safety and containment measures to avoid the spread of the virus during Guards' deployment.
"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," Senator Chris Murphy said.
"Ultimately we've got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms."
Guard members told POLITICO that on arrival in Washington, "several units were only given temperature checks and asked about any possible Covid-19 exposure."
One soldier said he and others were forced to get their own Covid-19 test while others reported being told to disregard their quarantine times "due to the urgent need for additional troops."
The majority of cases are asymptomatic, and originated from the troops' home stations, another Guard member told POLITICO.
"We did not get Covid tests on arrival. Right after the holidays, they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this."
'They protected our Capitol'
The troops had been allowed to take breaks and naps in between long shifts on the floors of the building housing the US Congress.
But on Thursday afternoon, after the legislature resumed work a day after the Biden inauguration, someone decided instead to force them out to a nearby parking garage, compounding the problem.
Photos that spread quickly over the internet showed guardsmen and women packed together in parking slots, with few toilets, outlets for charging phones, or other facilities available.
"This is an insult to all National Guard units that followed orders and served in the cold and rain through the night without fail. They protected our Capitol when we needed them most," said Representative Brendan Boyle on Twitter.
National Guard troops rest in a Senate cafeteria this morning ahead of Biden’s Inauguration Day pic.twitter.com/izeadOBa2K— Ali Zaslav (@alizaslav) January 20, 2021
The photos of Guard members sleeping on the parking lot ground caused an uproar.
"What happened was an outrage and it will never happen again," said Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Majority leader, as he walked in a hall in the Capitol with dozens of soldiers sleeping on both sides.
National Guard officials said Capitol Police told them to move to the garage, and the Capitol Police denied it.
They "did not instruct the National Guard to vacate Capitol building facilities," said Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman in a statement.
UPDATE: National Guard has now been fully transported back to the US Capitol. The WCK team is continuing to make rounds to serve hot soup to those troops guarding the perimeter of the Capitol on this chilly night. We’ve had the honor this week to meet Guard from across America. pic.twitter.com/OF5VaV78vi— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) January 22, 2021