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Pentagon officials say Joe Biden's coronavirus proposal is totally wrong and would actually make things worse


He didn't think that one through

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden offered his proposal for how he would handle the coronavirus, and it involved the military. Unfortunately for Biden, however, Pentagon officials think it's a bad idea, U.S. News reported.

Sunday night's Democratic primary debate was overshadowed by the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, which is taking lives and disrupting the world economy. The United States has observed as some countries have handled it relatively well, and others relatively poorly. Perhaps the largest question that will determine how the United States fares is whether or not our health care system can handle the inevitable increase in patient volume.

Biden's plan: To address the reality that U.S. hospitals may not have enough beds and enough medical equipment to treat everyone who will get the coronavirus, as well as patients suffering from other issues, Biden said he would turn to the military.

"I would call out the military now," Biden said at the Democratic debate. "They have the ability to provide this surge that hospitals need. … They have the capacity to build 500 hospital beds and tents that are completely safe and secure. It's a national emergency, and I would call out the military."

The Pentagon disagrees: It is true that the military has the ability to quickly build mobile hospital facilities that can treat hundreds of patients — but they're not exactly ideal for dealing with an infectious disease. From U.S. News:

[Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the surgeon for the Pentagon's Joint Staff] and Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, who also spoke at the briefing, said that the mobile hospital facilities the military can rapidly deploy do not typically isolate patients as medical professionals would need to contain the spread of a disease like the coronavirus. Rather, they keep patients together in common spaces and sometimes stack beds four-high to maximize space – the kind of grouping that would have the opposite effect of containment.

"What we're trying to be careful of is not over-promising," Friedrichs said.

Hoffman also emphasized that even with the capability to build facilities, the military would face a serious personnel and equipment shortage that would have to be filled from another source.

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