WASHINGTON — Members of the D.C. National Guard have tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake of the mass protests across the nation’s capital last week, according to Lt. Col. Brooke Davis, Guard spokeswoman.
She said the Guard will not release the exact total, but U.S. officials said they believe it is not a large number, at least so far.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information publicly. The positive tests were first reported by McClatchy.
While some Guard troops responding to the protests wore protective equipment, most were not wearing masks and it was largely impossible to maintain any social distancing.
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Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard talked to reporters Sunday the use of National Guard troops during protests in D.C.
In a statement, Davis said unit commanders were responsible for ensuring their troops adhered to guidelines calling for Guard members to wear protective equipment and maintain social distancing where practical.
She said personnel were medically screened for the coronavirus prior to their arrival, and will be screened before they leave.
According to officials, about 5,000 Guard members were in D.C. for the civil unrest, including as many as 1,200 from the D.C. Guard. The remainder came from 11 states: Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
According to officials, Guard members returning to their home states may remain on duty status and continue to be paid for two additional weeks so that they can be in quarantine if they were at risk for coronavirus infections.
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“The mission is to separate the good protesters and then the rioters and looters. You kind of have to draw the line between which is which," said one private first-class.
The federal Bureau of Prisons, which dispatched dozens of officers from its riot teams to the streets of Washington, is now offering coronavirus tests for those officers in Washington, an agency spokesman said Tuesday. The agency has also been making arrangements for officers to be tested when they return to the community where they regularly work, if they don’t want to be tested in Washington, the spokesman, Justin Long, said. The agency can’t compel its employees to be tested.
A spokeswoman for the FBI — which has had agents questioning people arrested at protests across the U.S. and also deployed its elite Hostage Rescue Team in Washington — would not answer questions about whether the agents would be tested or whether they were instructed to wear masks while working in the field. The agency would only say it was working with other officials to “continue to ensure measures are in place to protect the FBI workforce,” but did not provide any specific information.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.