Maryland calls in National Guard as state braces to be next coronavirus "hot spot"

Maryland calls National Guard over pandemic

Last Updated Apr 3, 2020 12:58 PM EDT

Maryland's National Guard has stepped up to help the state prepare for their own coronavirus surge, which Governor Larry Hogan says is "about two weeks behind New York." The National Guard has set up cots for a field hospital at a Baltimore convention center, a COVID-19 testing site at the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field and are busy moving pallets of face shields and surgical gloves to areas where medical staff need them most

"We're going to be the next hot spot," Hogan told CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, counting Washington, D.C. and Virginia in his prediction as well. He compared the pandemic to a "terrible hurricane" that is "hitting all 50 states, and it keeps coming every day, and it keeps intensifying and getting worse."

According to the Pentagon, nearly 19,000 National Guard troops have been deployed across the country. In Maryland, which received a stay-at-home order earlier in the week, Hogan said he was in constant contact with the head of his state's forces. 

"I was one of the very first to call up the National Guard. We called up 2,200 members of our National Guard," Hogan said. "Just every kind of place where we can help our hospitals, we can help provide the services and fill the gaps, they've been doing a tremendous job and stepping up. These are citizen soldiers who got called up to go serve, and every time we call on them... they always answer the call."

Major General Timothy Gowen, head of Maryland's troops, said his forces have "a lot of missions," but their "number one mission is to help with the medical surge" in any way they can. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has served in the National Guard in the past and said he was "very proud" of what they were doing to help the country fight the pandemic, adding that they have the capacity to do even more. 

Asked if Maryland's Guard was prepared to enforce the governor's stay-at-home order, Major General Gowen said it was a mission they were capable of and trained for, but "haven't been asked to do it yet."

The National Guard's mission now is to prepare for the rise of fatalities the state expects to come in mid-April, and also to bring a sense of hope and community at a time when people feel isolated. 

"It's a relief," Governor Hogan said. "When they come in, people say, help is on the way. And these guys are coming in here, and they're going to help keep us safe."