Biden administration assigns military health workers to COVID-19 danger zones

The U.S. is deploying 1,000 military health workers to six U.S. states beginning next week to help hospitals overwhelmed by a surge in omicron-related COVID-19 cases, President Joe Biden said Thursday.

Joe Biden

Teams of seven to 25 military doctors, nurses, and other personnel will begin arriving in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island to support emergency rooms and free hospital staff for other care, a White House official said.

Biden, in a morning address with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, announced that the administration will deploy 1,000 service members, starting immediately with 120 military medical personnel, to six states to help hospitals deal with a surge in cases from the omicron variant.


“The number one request continues to be staffing,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN, adding that other states would likely need reinforcements of military and other federal doctors and nurses to help with COVID-19 and other care as the omicron variant envelops the country.

Biden’s administration has deployed federal surge teams since July to battle COVID-19. In December, Biden directed Austin to ready another 1,000 medical forces and sent more than 100 federal medical personnel to Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Biden will also direct the U.S. government to procure an additional 500 million COVID-19 tests to help meet surging demand across the country. The order comes on top of another 500 million tests that the White House pledged would be available to Americans in January.

COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high this week after steadily increasing since late December, according to a Reuters tally, while omicron overtook delta as the dominant variant.

In New Jersey, for example, the number of people hospitalized, as of Wednesday was 6,089. That compares with a state record of 8,270 on April 15, 2020. There were 133,871 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States on average over the past week, the tally showed.

The increase has strained health systems and forced several states to postpone elective surgeries. Omicron not only drives up case loads but also sidelines staff hit by their own COVID-19 infections or exposures to the virus.

Several states have already declared emergencies to loosen regulations and free up funding to cope with the surge.

To date, 847,664 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States amid 63,268,225 reported total cases as the outbreak enters its third year.