- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2020

In his first visit beyond Washington, D.C., since March, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said the Pentagon is ready to take on the coronavirus pandemic for the long haul.

“We are preparing for a second wave and maybe more. We don’t know what the trajectory of this virus will be, so we listen to the medical experts,” Mr. Esper recently told reporters during a visit to the headquarters of U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Defense Department researchers and scientists are working to develop both vaccines and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19. But Mr. Esper isn’t predicting any near-term breakthroughs.

“My view has been that we will be at this for a number of months, at least, until we get a vaccine,” he said Thursday.

Social distancing requirements in the Department of Defense, such as wearing face masks, are likely to remain in effect for the foreseeable future, Mr. Esper said.

“I don’t see it easing anytime soon. We’re going to practice good habits and do everything necessary to protect our force,” he said.

Within the military, about 5,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and of that number about 100 have been hospitalized. There have been two cases of uniformed military personnel whose deaths were linked to COVID-19.

“These practices — everything that the commanders have been implementing and exercising, have held us in good stead,” Mr. Esper said.

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