Actor Sean Penn co-wrote an op-ed urging the United States government to authorize its military to intervene in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We call on President [Donald] Trump to commit the federal military to provide direct support. Our centralized, federal government can save lives now if it acts,” Penn and Ann Lee, CEO of the humanitarian aid organization Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), co-wrote in The Guardian, published on Saturday. “The military must be tasked with a full offensive against this virus.”
Penn drew from events he witnessed after the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. CORE was on the ground of the impoverished Caribbean island to assist those affected by the earthquake that killed 200,000 people.
“To aid Haitians after the earthquake, the United States government deployed the most effective logistical and humanitarian organization the world has ever seen: the U.S. military,” according to the writers, “which in Haiti included 22,000 soldiers, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S.NS Comfort, a 1,000-bed trauma hospital ship. U.S. soldiers distributed food, organized health facilities, set up clean water access, and provided security.”
Both Lee and Penn said the U.S. military worked in conjunction with CORE to help them “take over and manage a 60,000-person camp, with drainage, organized blocks of tents, and a hospital.”
“This was in Haiti, where public health infrastructure is limited and in some places nonexistent. Imagine what the U.S. military could do here in the U.S., right now, to fight the coronavirus pandemic. We need to buy time for our scientists to develop a vaccine; we need to build infrastructure to administer tests and treat the afflicted.”
The op-ed writers also said that deploying the National Guard and invoking the Defense Production Act–which allows Trump to direct companies to manufacture necessary equipment to confront the pandemic–does not go far enough.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also called on the president to mobilize the U.S. military to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. During an appearance on CNN Wednesday, de Blasio said he wants the military in NYC to supplement current efforts by the city and state.
“I want their medical teams, which are first rate. I want their logistical support. I want their ability to get stuff from factories all over the country where they are needed most. The only force in America that can do that effectively and quickly is the United States military and they are being sidelined right now by Donald Trump when he should be calling them to the front. [New York City] is the front right now,” de Blasio said.
As of this publication, there are over 19,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 260 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.