Washington — The Defense Department is working to provide 100,000 body bags to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a Pentagon spokesman confirmed Thursday, as the country braces for what President Trump has said will be a "rough" and "painful" two-week period in the coronavirus pandemic.
FEMA requested the body bags from the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, said the department and the DLA "have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities from DLA's industrial partners during crisis response operations."
"DLA is currently responding to FEMA's prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies," he said in a statement. The request was first reported by Bloomberg News.
The nation's top health officials arethat between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even with robust mitigation measures taken. To curb the spread of the virus, President Trump on Sunday nationwide social distancing guidelines until the end of April, and 37 states have issued their own statewide stay-at-home orders.
Mr. Trump said the White House expects the country will see a peak in the death rate around mid-April, with the U.S. facing "a very tough two weeks."
"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," he said at a briefing with the White House's Coronavirus Task Force Tuesday.
The Defense Department hasN95 masks and deployable ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services to assist with the response to the coronavirus, and two U.S. Navy hospital ships arrived in and to alleviate the strain on regional hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
There are more than 216,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and the death toll has surpassed 5,100, according to Johns Hopkins University.