FAQs on National Guard Deployment and Public Health Service Corps

We have received inquiries about whether the deployment of the National Guard by some state governors will help ease the workforce crisis facing providers during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, there have been questions about whether the Public Health Service Corps might be an alternative source of labor. Unfortunately, these options, while helpful in certain circumstances, will not be a viable source of employees or workers in our communities as we address the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Guard

Will the National Guard be mobilized by the states or will the federal government call on the National Guard during the pandemic?

At this point, the National Guard is being called up on a state-by-state basis as governors have declared state emergencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 22, 2020, President Trump declared “major disaster declarations” for Washington and New York (with California to be declared soon) and ordered the National Guard to help build medical facilities in those states. As the pandemic unfolds, more disaster declarations may be issued.

How will the National Guard be used to address the COVID-19 pandemic?

The National Guard units deployed by the state governors are primarily envisioned to assist with transporting medical supplies, assisting in drive-through testing logistics, and assisting local law enforcement to enforce curfews or other activities to assist during the pandemic. Now with the recent federal issuing of major disaster declarations in three state, guard units may assist in building medical facilities.

What are the capacities of the state National Guard units?

The capacity and size of National Guard units vary from state to state. Moreover, the skill sets and special capabilities of the National Guard units in each state may be different.

How do inquire about whether the National Guard could assist in our city or county?

Keep abreast of how your governor is planning to deploy the National Guard in your state. If you identify a need that might be helped by your state National Guard unit, work with your local city or county officials to ask the governor for specific assistance. As state and local needs are rapidly changing, an ongoing dialogue and communication with local and state officials is crucial. Stay tuned if a disaster declaration is issued for your state.

Public Health Service Corps

Here is some background information on the Public Health Service Corps. These individuals are already servicing in health care capacity for various government entities. Although they may be deployed to address certain pandemics or health crises, they are not assigned long-term to serve providers outside their government agencies.

What is the Public Health Service Corps?

The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is a team of more than 6,500 full-time, well-trained, highly qualified public health professionals dedicated to delivering the nation’s public health promotion and disease prevention programs and advancing public health science.

As one of America’s seven uniformed services, the Commissioned Corps fills essential public health leadership and service roles within the Nation’s Federal Government agencies and programs. Officers serve their country in communities that are most in need by providing essential health care services to underserved and vulnerable populations.

In which professional fields do Corps officers serve?

Corps officers serve in 15 careers in a wide range of specialties, including physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, dieticians, researchers, and rehabilitation therapists.

In which federal agencies and programs do Commissioned Corps officers serve?

Officers in the Commissioned Corps work in a variety of Federal agencies throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) including Indian Health Service (IHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as certain non-HHS Federal agencies/programs, such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP), Department of Defense (DoD), and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Health Service Corps (HSC).

What types of positions do Commissioned Corps officers hold in the agencies where they serve?

Commissioned Corps officers hold positions in the areas of health care delivery; disease control and prevention; biomedical research; regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices; mental health and drug abuse.

For more information on the Public Health Service Corps click here.