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Illinois National Guard Shoots Down False Rumors Of Armed Enforcement Of Governor's 'Stay At Home' Order; 'We Are Not Doing Any Policing Action'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Less than two days into the governor's mandate for Illinois residents to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the Illinois National Guard refuted rumors that armed soldiers are being deployed to enforce the order.

"We are not doing any policing action, we're not doing any kind of work at all like that," said Brigadier Gen. Richard Neely, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard.

While Gov. JB Pritzker has deployed 80 members of the National Guard to assist with the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak, Neely said none of them are armed, and are being used only to assist with COVID-19 testing sites, and to warehouse and distribute medical supplies.

Neely said the members of the National Guard who have been deployed are professional doctors, nurses, health care workers, and logistics staff.

"Within the Rosemont area this week, we just stood up a new testing facility. We had 100 personnel that are taking care of testing," he said.

Neely also said National Guard personnel are helping to store and ship large orders of personal protective equipment, and helping to assess shuttered hospitals as possible overflow sites if additional capacity is needed to treat coronavirus patients who require hospitalization.

"So you'll see trucks around the Chicagoland area. You'll see when we show up in camouflage, we tend to draw a crowd, but we're not bringing weapons, we're not bringing anything like that, we're bringing our professional skills to help out," Neely said.

In recent days, the National Guard also has taken to Twitter and Facebook to dispel rumors that troops have set up checkpoints in the Chicago area, are shutting down highways, are enforcing quarantines,

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the National Guard noted that, while many people have spotted trains moving military equipment, or convoys of military vehicles driving down highways, officials noted military equipment moves across the country all the time, and those sightings have nothing to do with the guard's COVID-19 response.

"There has been NO discussion of using the Illinois National Guard to enforce a quarantine. There has been discussion of transportation, food distribution, construction (renovating mothballed hospitals to make them functional again or building temporary hospital space) and a few other missions - but nothing about quarantining the city of Chicago or shutting down highways or any of the other wild rumors that have been circulating! People are understandably anxious about coronavirus. We will let people know as troops are activated for additional missions," the post stated.

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