Up to 200 National Guard members deployed to Washington DC have tested positive for COVID-19, sparking fears that the protection put in place after the Capitol riot led to a ‘superspreader’ event.
Three National Guard sources told Politico that over 100 troops have tested positive while several hundred more are currently in quarantine in hotels after showing symptoms or being exposed to the virus.
Reuters then reported between 150 and 200 had tested positive, according to an anonymous US official.
The insiders have described a failure by the National Guard to implement coronavirus testing and social distancing protocols evenly across the board, with some troops not being tested on arrival, some receiving only temperature checks and some told to cut short quarantine or skip it entirely in order to report for duty.
The full scale of the problem is not yet known as the Guard has not confirmed the number of infections or which states’ troops have been struck by outbreaks.
But it comes after shocking pictures showed up to 5,000 Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of a packed parking garage Thursday night.
Nearly 26,000 troops were sent to the Capitol from all 50 states following the January 6 insurrection to support Capitol police in guarding the seat of American democracy and President Joe Biden’s inauguration from attack.
Thousands of troops have already started returning to their home states with just 10,600 troops still on duty in the Capitol.
It is also not clear how many troops have already left DC or whether they were tested before their departure, amid concerns that – if infected – the virus could spread like wildfire nationwide as the troops return to their home states.
Troops outside the Capitol on Monday. Up to 200 National Guard members deployed to Washington DC have tested positive for COVID-19, sparking fears that the protection put in place after the Capitol riot led to a ‘superspreader’ event
National Guard troops sleep on the grass on the eastern front of the US Capitol Thursday
Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitors Center. Nearly 26,000 troops were sent to the Capitol from all 50 states following the January 6 insurrection
One Guard member told Politico most of the infections came from the units’ home stations and have been recorded among asymptomatic people.
They said leadership had tried to set up a comprehensive plan to test all troops on arrival and before they return home.
But several members said units were provided with no clear guidance on testing before coming to DC, on arrival or for when they return to their home states.
One National Guard member told Politico they were not tested for COVID-19 when they arrived at the Capitol and were straight away packed in ‘like sardines’ altogether.
‘Right after the holidays they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this,’ the Guard member said.
Two members of the Guard also said several units were not offered testing.
They said they only underwent temperature checks and were asked questions about whether they had been exposed to the virus.
Others were forced to go out to try to find their own tests, one Washington DC member told the outlet.
As well as a lack of testing, sources spoke of an inability to social distance and poor compliance with CDC quarantine rules.
News of an outbreak comes after shocking pictures showed up to 5,000 Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of a packed parking garage Thursday night (above)
Insiders described a failure by the National Guard to implement coronavirus testing and social distancing protocols evenly across the board. Pictured up to 5,000 troops in the garage Thursday
One guardsman told the outlet troops who were exposed to the virus through their colleagues were told not to bother quarantining or to cut it short because they were needed on duty.
The CDC recommends people exposed to the virus quarantine even after a negative test because tests may not detect the virus in the first few days of infection.
This guidance was ‘completely disregarded,’ the Guard member said.
Another guard member said it was ‘almost impossible’ for troops to practice social distancing while on duty in the halls of Congress, the DC armory and the parking garages.
Another described the scenes like a ‘sitcom’ with so little space that they were forced to ‘scavenge’ for space in hallways.
‘You should have seen late-coming states scavenge for space,’ they said.
‘It would have made a great sitcom: people literally making offices out of hallways and any unoccupied space.’
Several lawmakers voiced outrage after shocking photos showed thousands of Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the packed Thurgood Marshall Building parking garage and in a park outside Thursday night.
The full scale of the outbreak is not yet known as the Guard has not confirmed the number of infections or which states’ troops have been struck by outbreaks
Troops are pictured resting in the Capitol building on Friday after briefly being kicked out overnight
Images showed troops packed inside parking garages during their rest breaks with one unit of around 5,000 forced to sleep in one garage with just one bathroom between all of them.
Before being located to the parking lot, the troops had been allowed to take rest breaks inside the Capitol building.
The soldiers do have hotel rooms but their 12 hour shift pattern means they cannot easily return to their rooms during rest breaks.
They had been asked to leave the Capitol building and take their rest breaks in a nearby designated parking lot by a Capitol officer who did not have the authority to do so.
Capitol Police apologized late Thursday and said troops could return to the Capitol after some Guardsmen said they felt ‘incredibly betrayed’.
One source told Politico Congress has now stepped in to try to ensure 100 percent of troops are tested within the next few days.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt told Politico the Senate Rules Committee has launched an investigation into the matter saying the ill-treatment of the troops was a COVID-19 safety hazard.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said lawmakers were looking into what had gone wrong so that the issue can be resolved ahead of thousands of troops staying in the Capitol for the time being.
Some troops not being tested for COVID-19 on arrival, some received only temperature checks and some told to cut short quarantine or skip it entirely in order to report for duty. Members of the National Guard from South Dakota stood guard outside the Capitol building on Friday
New Hampshire National Guard posted this image Wednesday. Thousands of troops have already started returning to their home states with just 10,600 troops still on duty in the Capitol
‘Obviously the Senate had not gotten as involved in this because we had hoped it was being worked out between Capitol Police and the Guard,’ Murphy told the outlet.
‘Obviously there’s some rough edges, so there’s a lot of us working on this right now.’
He added: ‘I think we’ve got to figure out what went wrong because I think there’s going to be a National Guard presence on campus for the foreseeable future.’
Efforts to vaccinate troops have also reportedly been sporadic.
Some started receiving the first dose of the vaccine in DC, one Maryland Guard member said, while members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard were given the option to get a shot before heading to DC.
Around 7,000 Guardsmen will remain on duty until at least March at the Capitol at the request of local law enforcement.
But with some troops having already departed DC, it is not yet clear how far the COVID-19 outbreak could spread.
The National Guard did not immediately return DailyMail.com’s request for comment or details on the scale of the problem.
This post was first published on DailyMail.