Updated Mar 23, 2020 - Health

Trump activates National Guard in Washington, California and New York

President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 21

President Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump told a news conference Sunday that he's activated the National Guard to assist Washington, California and New York to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: As Trump noted, all three states "have been hit the hardest" by the outbreak. Major disaster declarations have been approved for New York and Washington state and California's request will be granted soon, Trump said.

Zoom in: The federal government would fund 100% of the deployment cost via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "to carry out approved missions to stop the virus while those governors remain in command," Trump said.

  • The president said he spoke with the governors of the three states, as he stressed that the deployment is not martial law. 

The big picture: COVID-19 has infected more than 35,000 people in the U.S. New York has become America's epicenter of COVID-19 with about 50% of the country's total cases.

By the numbers: Trump said at the briefing that he directed FEMA to supply "four large medical stations with 1,000 beds for New York, eight large federal medical stations with 2,000 beds for California and three large federal medical stations and four small federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for the state of Washington."

What they're saying: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted that he's grateful "for the quick response and partnership" of Trump in granting his request to deploy Navy hospital ships to the state.

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) tweeted that he's "very disappointed the USNS Mercy" was not being deployed to his state, but he appreciated "that federal field hospitals are on the way to help with increased medical needs."
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) had yet to comment on the new measures, but he called on the Trump administration before the announcement to nationalize the purchase of needed medical supplies and "implement the Defense Production Act and order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, and ventilators."
  • "If we don’t get the equipment, we could lose lives that we could otherwise save," he said Sunday.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper