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More than 9,000 retired Army soldiers interested in joining fight against coronavirus

Cuomo on surge of health care workers

On Wednesday, the Army emailed more than 800,000 retired soldiers to gauge their willingness to come back to work and join the fight against coronavirus. By Thursday, more than 9,000 had "expressed interest" in volunteering, the Army said.

The Army reached out to retired officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers who have the skills and expertise to assist with COVID-19 response, Army Chief of Staff General James McConville said at a press briefing on Thursday. "This is a voluntary opportunity for our medical soldiers for life to return to the fight if they so choose – especially if they are not currently assisting their local communities," he said.

"So far, the response has been very, very positive," McConville added. 

The Army is looking for care specialties such as critical care officers, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, critical care nurses, nurse practitioners, ER nurses, respiratory specialists and medics, CBS News' David Martin reports.

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200 students from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences will graduate early to join the fight against coronavirus. 9,000 retired soldiers with medical background have also volunteered to join the effort. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

During Thursday's press briefing, McConville said over 10,000 National Guard soldiers are already supporting efforts in all 50 states. They have been delivering food to communities, supporting local emergency management agencies and testing facilities, providing PPE to first responders and hospitals, providing transportation to health care workers, cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and setting up call centers to inform the public, he said.

The Army also announced on Wednesday that more than 200 military medical students and graduate nursing students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) will be graduating early so they can join the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said USU President Dr. Richard Thomas made the decision when a national emergency was declared, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"Our curriculum has a specific focus on threats like emerging infectious diseases and disasters that our military and Public Health Service forces are likely to encounter in the course of their careers," Thomas said. "This instruction is based on real-life lessons learned, is woven throughout the curriculum and incorporated into our medical field exercises."

The volunteerism of the retired soldiers mirrors that of former health care workers in New York City. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio put out a call to retired health care professionals to join the front lines in the battle against the virus. "In the last 24 hours, 1,000 New Yorkers who are retired medical personnel have volunteered to join the effort to fight coronavirus," de Blasio said. "I think that's so inspiring. So many people are coming forward to help and that's how we're going to beat this back."

On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said 40,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals have signed up to join a surge health care force to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. "That's a big, big deal," Cuomo said at a briefing Wednesday.

He also announced that 6,175 mental health professionals had signed up to provide free online mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. "How beautiful is that?" the governor said of the number of volunteers.

"No one's really talking about this. We're all concerned about the immediate critical need, the life and death of the immediate situation, but don't underestimate the emotional trauma that people are feeling and the emotional health issues," Cuomo said.

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