Pentagon trying to get 100,000 body bags for FEMA’s coronavirus response

Workers wheel a deceased person outside of Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 30, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The Pentagon is trying to obtain 100,000 body bags for federal emergency management officials in preparation of an expected increase in the numbers of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

That effort’s disclosure came on the heels of a White House projection that an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 are likely to die in coming months from COVID-19, even with mitigation and treatment efforts. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to prepare for “a very painful” coming three weeks.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, told CNBC that the Defense Logistics Agency  is responding to “prudent planning efforts” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Andrews said FEMA has asked for “100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies.”

The Defense Logistics Agency is the  combat logistics support agency for U.S. military branches.

Bloomberg News, which first broke news of the effort Wednesday,  reported that the Pentagon already has 50,000 body bags that it will begin tapping to fulfill FEMA’s request as it seeks the other 100,000 bags.

A FEMA spokesman said in a statement, “FEMA is aware of many states’ planning efforts to account for mortuary contingencies and has increased its posture to support these requests once received from the states.”

“Prudent planning for these future conditions is taken very seriously by FEMA, and we are working with Regional and State health and emergency managers to ramp up available assets to meet contingency needs for the most affected areas,” the spokesman said.

Andrews, the Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department and the Defense Logistics Agency have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities from DLA’s industrial partners during crisis response operations.”

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