43 National Guard Troops in DC for Inauguration Test Positive for COVID-19

U.S. Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard.
U.S. Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard take the oath of office to serve with Capitol Police in the Visitor Center in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard/Sgt. Matt Hecht)

As thousands of National Guard troops flood into Washington, D.C., coronavirus cases have spiked among them.

Of the roughly 7,000 Guardsmen currently deployed to the District of Columbia, there are now 43 positive cases of COVID-19, Air Force Capt. Tinashe Machona, spokesman for the D.C. National Guard, said in a statement.

The spike in cases comes as the Pentagon has increased the Guard authorization for inauguration security in D.C. to 25,000, a jump of 10,000 over the past 24 hours.

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But the D.C. Guard, which is in command of incoming forces, does not believe that the troops contracted the virus while in the district.

"We are unaware of anyone contracting COVID while on duty here," Machona said in the statement. "The D.C. Guard continues to promote [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, which includes social distancing, wearing masks and increased hygiene measures."

Military Times first reported this story.

Each unit commander is responsible for making sure CDC guidelines are followed and that troops are provided personal protective equipment, Machona said in the statement.

"Incoming Guard men and women are screened upon departure from their individual states and upon arrival to the D.C. Armory," Machona said in the statement. "Temperature checks and screen questions are in place. Masks and social distancing are required where the mission allows."

D.C. Guard officials could not immediately answer how many soldiers are under quarantine.

The Pentagon initially authorized up to 6,200 Guard members from Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania to deploy to D.C. to provide security through Inauguration Day. The move came after Trump supporters escalated a rally into a siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as lawmakers were meeting for the official count of Electoral College votes to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 election.

The number grew to an authorization of 15,000 on Monday and then jumped to 21,000 Thursday before National Guard Bureau officials announced Friday that the mission had increased to 25,000 Guard members from all 50 states, three territories and D.C.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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