"This is a telling indicator of leadership failure," said one Army officer. "Unfortunately, the outcome has about a two week delay."
What the U.S. military is telling troops about how to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is all over the map.
The Pentagon continues to insist that commanders can determine the best approach to stopping the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in their units, resulting in confused messaging to troops and their families that often conflicts with federal guidelines to stop the virus' spread.
Army recruits have been told they are safer in the fresh air than in their barracks. Marines have been told they still need to report to work even though their children's schools are closed. And one Army commander assured soldiers and families that they should not be worried about coronavirus because young, healthy people are at a low risk.
Meanwhile, the number of U.S. troops confirmed positive for the virus nearly doubled from 67 on Friday to 133 on Monday. Another 41 service members had tested positive for the disease by Tuesday. Currently, the U.S. has had more than 46,000 total confirmed cases and more than 590 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, edging out only China and Italy with more cases.
"This is a telling indicator of leadership failure," one Army officer told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity. "Unfortunately, the outcome has about a two week delay," the officer said, referring to the delay in reporting on spread of the virus. USNS Mercy
(Navy photo / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Harley K. Sarmiento)
"This week, it's going to get bad," said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. "Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously."
Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now," Adams said. "So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home."
That has not been the policy of the Department of Defense, which has given wide latitude to subordinate units through a policy of "commander's discretion," leading to worry among family members and soldiers who can see for themselves the civilian world around them changing as activity on their bases largely remains the same.
I cant put out a blanket policy, if you will, that we would then apply to everybody because every situation is different, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday in response to questioning about "inconsistencies" in DoD guidance on social distancing and travel restrictions being carried out at lower levels. Tell me how I do six feet distancing in an attack submarine. Or how do I do that in a bomber with two pilots sitting side by side?
The next day, Esper urged the force during a live-streamed town hall to take more proactive measures: "If you can avoid putting a large number of people in a small rooms, you should do it. Hold your meeting outside or maybe meet in smaller groups. Get that social distancing as best you can."
Esper also encouraged officers and senior enlisted leaders to privately voice their concerns about not enough social distancing happening within their commands.
While having everyone stay at home may not be feasible for most military units, some have taken more proactive steps than others. The number of people physically working at the Pentagon is down by about 60%, according to Esper. And at many bases, restaurants have moved to take-out only, gyms and movie theaters have closed, and religious services have been curtailed.
Still, some service members expressed concern to Task & Purpose as units around the nation continued to conduct training as normal and work in close proximity. Most spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
Click for Full Text!