More Than 2.5 Million Face Masks Have Now Been Delivered to the Military

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Navy Reservist cuts face mask
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Kareen Suckoo, a Navy Reservist from Navy Operational Support Center Bronx, New York attached to the NAS Patuxent River Security Department, cuts face mask filters at the Pax River drill hall in response to COVID-19, April 16, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo/Patrick Gordon)

More than 2.5 million government-issue face masks have been delivered to the service branches, including combatant commands and federal agencies, and now it's up to commanders to decide on the how and when of distribution, Defense Logistics Agency officials said Monday.

The numbers provided to Military.com by the DLA showed that the Navy, the hardest-hit of the service branches in terms of COVID-19 cases, received the most face masks: 1,072,500.

The other delivery numbers provided by DLA are as follows:

The total of 2,533,500 masks shipped thus far exceeded the projections for deliveries initially given by Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment. She announced in April that the DoD had ordered three million cloth face masks for uniformed and civilian personnel.

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"We have ordered face coverings for the workforce," Lord said at an April 20 Pentagon teleconference, adding that most deliveries were not expected until the summer.

At an April 30 Pentagon briefing, Lord said the orders for face masks had been upped to five million and "delivery of over five million non-medical cloth face coverings to our military services, combatant commands, U.S. Coast Guard and several federal agencies has begun."

She gave no numbers on deliveries. But the DLA said Friday that it began filling requisitions from the service branches and others on April 24, and "orders will continue to be filled as inventory is received."

Deliveries also began April 24, a DLA spokesman said.

The DLA's action was in response to an April 5 memo from Defense Secretary Mark Esper directing all uniformed and civilian personnel on DoD facilities to wear cloth face coverings when they can't maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to guidelines from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers," Esper's memo said.

The result was that many resorted to hand-sewn and other do-it-yourself types of face coverings to make up for the overall shortage in non-medical face masks.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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