Republican ex-fighter pilot claims victory in California congressional race

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans on Wednesday claimed victory in a special election to the U.S. Congress as Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot endorsed by President Donald Trump, said he had taken back a California seat in the House of Representatives lost to a Democrat two years ago.

Garcia jumped to a significant early lead Tuesday night over Democratic state legislator Christy Smith in California’s 25th district, the California secretary of state’s office said. It put Garcia’s share of the vote at 56 percent to 44 percent for Smith.

But Smith has not conceded as the votes of the largely mail-in election are still being tallied, and an official winner may not emerge until later this week.

The seat in the northern Los Angeles suburbs became vacant after Democrat Katie Hill last year resigned following a sex scandal.

“After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed,” Garcia, 44, said in a statement Wednesday.

Garcia’s “big congressional win” was heralded by Trump in a tweet Wednesday morning in which he noted it was the first time in many years (since 1998) that Republicans had flipped a Democratic congressional seat in California, a Democratic stronghold.

The early results marked a setback for Democrats coming so soon after Hill had grabbed the long-time Republican suburban turf by nearly 9 percentage points in 2018.

But the winner will have to defend the seat in a rematch in November, when the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for election and Trump is running for re-election.

The district has more Democrats than Republicans but the special election turnout seemed to be Republican-leaning, “which may not be the case in the fall”, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a newsletter on campaigns.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Restaurants in parts of California can open for sit-down dining

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Restaurants in a half-dozen California counties can host sit-down dining, and shopping malls throughout the state can open for curbside pickup as coronavirus restrictions ease, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.

Offices can also open with some restrictions, Newsom, a Democrat, said in his daily press briefing. But his latest plan for reopening the world’s fifth-largest economy still does not allow nail salons, tattoo parlors or gyms.

“It’s a mistake to over-promise what reopening means,” said Newsom, who has hesitated to loosen restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus even as other states have done so.

On Tuesday, leading U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned Congress that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed more than 80,000 people in the United States and brought the economy to its knees.

In California, the modest loosening of stay-at-home rules imposed in March comes as infections in the most-populous U.S. state appear to be stabilizing. But the state allows local governments to keep imposing stricter guidelines, and health officials in high-density areas like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area have not yet supported easing restrictions.

Similarly, counties with few or stabilized cases can apply to the state for permission to open more businesses, including restaurants serving sit-down meals, and allow customers inside shopping malls, retail stores and swap meets. Schools can open with modifications.

Six Northern California counties, Butte, El Dorado, Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Shasta, received that permission on Tuesday.

To reopen, restaurants must retool their dining rooms to accommodate social distancing, closing areas where customers congregate or touch food, and stop setting tables with shared condiments such as mustard containers. Menus must be disposable and table-side food preparation is no longer allowed.

California’s slow pace of reopening has been criticized by lawmakers in Republican-leaning rural parts of the state, and a conservative lawyer filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday contesting the state’s restrictions on beauty salons.

Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco-based attorney and the former vice chair of the California Republican Party, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Professional Beauty Federation of California in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.

She has also challenged Newsom’s order closing houses of worship, saying that while she supported the initial efforts to slow the virus’ transmission, the shutdown had gone on for too long.

“The premise was never lock everybody down, deprive them of their livelihoods, their properties, their dreams, everything they built,” she said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)

Trump wants California to let automaker Tesla reopen assembly plant

By Nathan Frandino

FREMONT, California (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged that Tesla Inc be allowed to reopen its electric vehicle assembly plant in California, joining CEO Elon Musk’s bid to defy county officials who have ordered it to remain closed.

“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

On Monday, Musk said production was resuming at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle factory, defying an order to stay closed and saying if anyone had to be arrested, it should be he.

Musk tweeted “Thank you!” in response to Trump on Tuesday.

Tesla shares were up 1.1% at $820.44 in late trading.

At Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, employee parking lots that were deserted on Friday were packed with cars on Tuesday. Trucks could be seen driving in and out of the factory grounds.

About a dozen workers, some masked, some not, were seen standing by a red food truck on the factory grounds.

At the factory’s outbound logistics parking lot, where only a dozen Tesla cars stood on Friday, hundreds of Tesla vehicles were seen on Tuesday.

The company, which on Saturday sued Alameda County, where the plant is located, over its decision that the plant should stay closed, did not comment on Trump’s tweet.

Late on Monday, county health officials said they were aware Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan.

A county health official on Friday said the county had asked all manufacturers, including Tesla, to delay operations by at least another week to monitor infection and hospitalization rates.

Scott Haggerty, the Alameda County supervisor for the district where Tesla’s factory is located, told the New York Times on Saturday that the county had been working to permit Tesla to resume operations on May 18 – the same day other U.S. automakers have been permitted to resume production in other states.

Haggerty on Tuesday accused Musk on Twitter of misrepresenting what he had told the newspaper.

Tesla on Saturday released a plan to keep workers returning to the factory safe.

The measures, which include temperature screenings, the installation of barriers to separate work areas and protective equipment for workers, are similar to those set up by Detroit-based automakers General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

Trump is eager for the U.S. economy to reopen and for Americans to return to work.

He has sparred with California for years over a series of issues, including immigration, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, funding for high-speed rail and numerous environmental issues. Trump has met with Musk on several occasions during his presidency.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said he had spoken with Musk several days ago and that the Tesla founder’s concerns helped prompt the state to begin its phased reopening of manufacturing last week.

States and cities around the United States are experimenting with ways to reopen their economies safely after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work.

Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from Trump.

Tesla also has a vehicle plant in Shanghai and is building another in Berlin. Its lawsuit on Saturday alleged that Alameda County had violated California’s constitution by defying Newsom’s orders allowing manufacturers to reopen.

Newsom’s office did not immediately comment on Tuesday.

In the past, Musk has discussed opening a second U.S. factory outside California. In a tweet in February, he solicited comments on potentially opening a factory in Texas.

(Reporting by Nathan Frandino in Fremont, Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by David Gregorio, Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)

California to close all beaches, state parks amid coronavirus concerns: memo

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom will announce on Thursday the closure of all beaches and parks in the state amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic after crowds jammed beaches last weekend, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

The memo was sent on Wednesday by the governor’s office to California’s police chiefs to plan ahead of Newsom’s announcement on Thursday.

“After the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend, in violation of Governor Newsom’s Shelter in Place Order, the Governor will be announcing tomorrow that ALL beaches and all state parks in California will be closed, effective Friday, May 1st,” the memo read.

Newsom’s office and the California Police Chiefs Association did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

While Newsom, a Democrat, has said that curbside retail, manufacturing and other “lower-risk workplaces” should reopen in California within weeks as testing and contact-tracing improve, he has also said the state will step up enforcement of coronavirus-related public health restrictions after the scenes of crowded beaches last weekend.

Officials in the U.S. state’s Orange and Ventura Counties allowed access to their beaches during the warm spring weekend, prompting families and groups to head to the ocean.

The crowds on the beaches put at risk California’s progress in slowing the advance of the novel coronavirus, Newsom said on Monday.

The crowds also exemplified the tension that officials throughout the United States are dealing with as residents chafe under stay-at-home orders and some states begin to loosen them.

In response to the proposed closure of the state parks and beaches in California, Orange County Supervisor Donald Wagner said it was not a wise step.

“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious disease, including mental health benefits,” Wagner said, adding that the order could undermine the cooperative attitude of the county’s residents.

A Reuters tally shows the United States has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at more than a million, with total deaths topping 60,000 by late Wednesday.

Cases neared 3.2 million worldwide, with about 227,000 deaths from the highly contagious disease, Reuters calculations show.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Governor worries cooped-up Californians will hit beaches on warm weekend

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Californians locked down for weeks during the coronavirus pandemic have trickled back to local beaches as the weather warms, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday to plead for social distancing during a heat wave expected this weekend.

Newsom, in his daily remarks on the response to the outbreak, appeared to concede that the state’s beaches would be an irresistible lure to residents, who have been largely confined to their homes since mid-March.

“We’re walking into a very warm weekend. People are prone to want to go to the beaches, parks, playgrounds and go on a hike, and I anticipate there will be significant increase in volume,” the governor said.

“But I also think if there is and people aren’t practicing physical distancing, I’ll be announcing again these numbers going back up,” Newsom said, referring to a slight downward tick in new hospitalizations and admissions to intensive-care units.

California, the nation’s most populous state, recorded its deadliest day yet in the pandemic, with 115 fatalities in the 24 hours from Wednesday to Thursday.

Newsom has been credited with taking early action to lock down the state as cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, spread in early March, and California has seen fewer cases than New York and other East Coast states.

California’s beaches are under a patchwork of state and local jurisdictions, which means some have remained open while others were shut.

Los Angeles County closed all its beaches – including parking lots, bike paths, showers and restrooms – during the coronavirus outbreak, but leaders in neighboring Orange County voted to keep some open.

Amid a debate over whether residents are safer in open spaces such as the beach, officials in San Clemente in southern Orange County voted this week to reopen city beaches that they closed two weeks ago, the Orange County Register reported.

This week in Huntington Beach, an Orange County city that has both state and local beaches as well as the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, surfers could be seen in the water on either side of a closed pier as sunbathers watched from the sand and joggers used pedestrian paths.

Lifeguards at Huntington Beach’s main stretch of shoreline counted about 9,000 people on the sand and in the water on Thursday, according to local CBS television affiliate KCBS.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore urged residents to avoid flocking to beaches and trailheads as summery weather returns, the Los Angeles City News Service (CNS) reported.

“Save police the awkwardness of us having to admonish you and advise and direct you for something that you already know,” CNS quoted Moore as saying. “With that, our men and women can stay focused on public safety.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Lucy Nicholson in Huntington Beach; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Daniel Wallis and Gerry Doyle)

‘Nature welcomes the change’: with no tourists, wildlife roams California’s Yosemite

(Reuters) – A bear ambles across a forest glade and a herd of deer stroll down a silent road. At Yosemite National Park in Northern California, coronavirus restrictions mean no tourists – and bolder wildlife.

“It’s very quiet right now at the park,” Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean said in an interview.

“It’s an amazing scene where you hear the natural sounds of the river, wildlife and the birds. The wildlife is getting a little bit bolder now because there are few people around.”

Yosemite, one of the best-known national parks in the United States, has been closed to all except a few employees and local residents since March 20, in response to the public health emergency triggered by the coronavirus.

The park, famed for its waterfalls and giant sequoia trees, normally attracts over 3 million visitors a year, most of whom arrive between April and October.

“We are trying to anticipate and plan how the park will be when it reopens, because, you know, it won’t be business as usual this summer,” said Dean, whose nonprofit organization protects the park and runs services for visitors.

Dean added that he expected visitor patterns to be different once it does reopen – people may be reluctant to visit the restaurant or visitor center, for instance.

In the meantime, the wildlife is having a ball.

“I think nature is obviously welcoming the change,” said Dean. Bears, coming out of hibernation, were being seen more frequently as they were less secretive and felt more comfortable, he said.

Coyotes were the most noticeable change, said Dean.

“They are out in the daytime now and they’re not afraid. I mean, they’re just sort of walking by people and walking around, among buildings.”

(Reporting by Norma Galeana in Los Angeles; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Sign of the times: Mile-long line of cars outside California grocery giveaway

By Lucy Nicholson

VAN NUYS, Calif. (Reuters) – A pop-up food pantry in Southern California on Thursday drew so many people that the line of cars waiting for free groceries stretched about a mile (1.6 km), a haunting sign of how the coronavirus pandemic has hurt the working poor.

Hundreds of other people, many wearing trash bags to shelter from the rain, arrived at the one-day grocery giveaway on foot, forming a blocks-long queue in Van Nuys, in the central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles.

People pick up fresh food at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank giveaway of 2,000 boxes of groceries, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Organizers said they had enough groceries to hand out to more than 2,500 families, with each receiving a 36-pound (16-kg) box of rice, lentils and other staples as well as frozen chicken, oranges and other foods.

“I have six kids and it’s difficult to eat. My husband was working in construction but now we can’t pay the rent,” said Juana Gomez, 50, of North Hollywood, as she waited for her turn.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down nonessential businesses across the United States, with more than 90% of Americans under some kind of stay-at-home order, depriving millions of a paycheck.

The northeast part of Los Angeles, home to many working poor Latino families, has been especially hard hit.

LA Regional Food Bank supplied the food donated outside Van Nuys City Hall. Its president, Michael Flood, said such giveaways were becoming an increasingly important way to help feed people in need, with “one or two a day” being held in different locations in Los Angeles County.

Thursday’s food giveaway — coordinated by Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez in partnership with the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Labor Community Services — was open to anyone in need.

“This food saves me money because my little income goes to my rent,” said Daniel Jimenez, 40, an independent contractor for golf tournaments whose young children joined him to pick up food.

“I haven’t been working for three weeks. I have a little money saved but I’m paying rent, gas, and cellphone bills. I don’t even know when we’re going back to work,” he said.

As he spoke, volunteers shouted constant reminders to those who walked up to maintain social distancing.

“For a lot of people, they are new to the situation of needing help and not knowing where to turn,” Flood said, noting many people were now suddenly filing for unemployment and government food assistance programs.

“But that may take some time for them to get those benefits. We want to do what we can to get food in the hands of families, just so they can eat,” he said.

(Writing by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)

U.S. coronavirus death toll rises past 3,000 on deadliest day

By Stephanie Kelly and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic climbed past 3,000 on Monday, the deadliest day yet in the country’s mounting crisis, while New York cheered the arrival of a gleaming 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship as a sign of hope in the city’s desperate fight.

In a grim new milestones marking the spread of the virus, total deaths across the United States hit 3,017, including at least 540 on Monday, and the reported cases climbed to more than 163,000, according to a Reuters tally.

People in New York and New Jersey lined both sides of the Hudson River to cheer the U.S Navy ship Comfort, a converted oil tanker painted white with giant red crosses, as it sailed past the Statue of Liberty accompanied by support ships and helicopters.

The Comfort will treat non-coronavirus patients, including those who require surgery and critical care, in an effort to free up other resources to fight the virus, the Navy said.

“It’s a wartime atmosphere and we all have to pull together,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was among the dignitaries to greet the ship’s arrival at the Midtown Manhattan pier.

Hospitals in the New York City area have been overrun with patients suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. Officials have appealed for volunteer healthcare workers.

“We can’t take care of you if we can’t take care of ourselves,” said Krystal Horchuck, a nurse with Virtua Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. “I think a lot of us have accepted the fact that we are probably going to get this. It’s just that we want to survive. We’re all being exposed to it at some point.”

The United States has the most confirmed cases in the world, a number that is likely to soar when tests for the virus become more widespread.

President Donald Trump told a White House briefing that more than 1 million Americans had been tested for coronavirus – less than 3% of the population. While the United States has ramped up testing after a series of setbacks, it still lags countries like Italy and South Korea on a per capita basis.

In California, another hard-hit state, Governor Gavin Newsom said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations had nearly doubled over the past four days and the number of ICU patients had tripled. Officials there also appealed for medical volunteers.

CENTRAL PARK HOSPITALS

To ease the pressure in New York, construction of a 68-bed field hospital began on Sunday in Manhattan’s Central Park. The white tents being set up evoked a wartime feel in an island of green typically used by New Yorkers to exercise, picnic and enjoy the first signs of spring.

The makeshift facility, provided by the Mount Sinai Health System and non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, is expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday, de Blasio said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, one of the most prominent public figures of the coronavirus crisis, told a news conference the state might have to step in to close playgrounds in the country’s most populous city in order to enforce social distancing and slow the spread of the virus.

Cuomo and de Blasio are among a growing chorus of officials who have voiced frustration at Trump’s handling of the crisis and a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“I am not engaging the president in politics,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said of Trump, a Republican. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership.”

Ford Motor Co said on Monday it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a Michigan plant in cooperation with General Electric’s healthcare unit, and can then manufacture 30,000 a month.

Officials in states hard hit by the pandemic have pleaded with the Trump administration and manufacturers to speed up production of ventilators to cope with a surge in patients struggling to breathe. On Friday, Trump said he would invoke powers under the Defense Production Act to direct manufacturers to produce ventilators.

CHILLING NUMBERS

U.S. health officials are urging Americans to follow stay-at-home orders until the end of April to contain the spread of the virus, which originated in China and has infected about three-quarters of a million people around the world.

“If we do things together well – almost perfectly – we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told NBC’s “Today” show.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House briefing that he expected a coronavirus outbreak in the fall, as well, but he said the nation would be better prepared to respond.

Authorities in New Orleans were setting up a field hospital at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – the same site where thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees gathered in 2005 – to handle an expected overflow of patients.

Dr. Thomas Krajewski, an emergency room doctor at St. Barnard Parish hospital in New Orleans, said he had watched patients be admitted to the hospital and seem ready to get better only to get worse.

“Many of them have passed away already in a way that … it’s not normal,” he said. “It’s not something that any of us had prepared to do. And we’re kind of writing the book as we go.”

The governors of Maryland, Virginia and Arizona issued “stay-at-home” orders as cases rose in those states, as did Washington, D.C.

At the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, 12 prisoners were hospitalized and several required ventilators, while 77 more showing symptoms were isolated at the facility, officials said.

Renowned country and folk singer John Prine was among the latest celebrities – including several members of Congress – to come down with the virus. Prine was in stable condition on Monday after being hospitalized with symptoms of the illness, his wife said on Twitter. Prine, a 73-year-old cancer survivor, lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

(This story refiles to add dropped word “care” in the 7th paragraph)

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Daniel Trotta in Milan, Barbara Goldberg and Stephanie Kelly in New York and Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao and John Whitesides; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

California COVID-19 hospitalizations double in four days: governor

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state had nearly doubled over the past four days and the number of ICU patients tripled during that time.

By Monday, 1,421 California patients had been hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, up from 746 four days ago, Newsom said. The number of patients requiring intensive care beds rose to 597 from 200, he said. Altogether, 5,763 people have tested positive for the disease in the state, he said.

The rapid increase in the need for hospital and ICU care led Newsom to set up a website to connect retired doctors and nurses, as well as medical and nursing students, to hospitals and clinics that need them. The state will help retirees activate their licenses and students obtain licensing.

“If you’re a nursing school student, a medical school student, we need you,” Newsom said. “If you’ve just retired in the last couple of years, we need you.”

The state is hoping its initiative, dubbed California Health Corps, will bring on board enough staff to handle an additional 50,000 hospital beds, Newsom said. An executive order signed Monday also temporarily allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners to perform some duties normally performed by physicians and registered nurses, and waives other state rules during the crisis.

Medical professionals who sign up under the program will be paid with state and federal funds and provided malpractice insurance.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler)

Pentagon eyes Chicago, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana as coronavirus spreads

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military is watching coronavirus infection trends in Chicago, Michigan, Florida and Louisiana with concern as it weighs where else it may need to deploy, after boosting aid to New York, California and Washington, a top general said on Friday.

Air Force General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military was doing its own analysis as well as looking at data on infections compiled elsewhere in the government.

“There’s a certain number of places where we have concerns and they’re: Chicago, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana,” Hyten told a group of reporters, when asked where field hospitals could head next.

“Those are the areas that we’re looking at and trying to figure out where to go next.”

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States reached 100,040 on Friday, the highest number in the world, a Reuters tally showed.

The Army Corps of Engineers said on Friday it was aiming to provide facilities for 3,000 people with the coronavirus at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center by April 24 for about $75 million.

Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the Corps’ commander, said the Corps was looking at potentially converting 114 facilities in the United States into hospitals.

Asked about Hyten’s remarks, Semonite said he continued to be concerned about Michigan, Florida and Louisiana and had spoken with the governor of Louisiana. He said there could be a high demand for medical resources in Florida because of the aging population and added the Corps was developing options for the state.

STRAINS ON MILITARY

The military is already deploying field hospitals to Seattle and New York. A Navy hospital ship arrived on Friday in Los Angeles and another one is expected to reach New York City on Monday, where Hyten said the city was still dredging the harbor to allow the massive ship to dock.

Each ship has a capacity of about 1,000 beds and would not treat coronavirus patients, instead taking pressure off overwhelmed civilian hospitals.

But Hyten cautioned that the U.S. military only had limited medical capacity in the United States and, at some point, it would have to tap the reserve forces — while guarding against drawing medical staff away from civilian facilities.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order authorizing the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to call up reservists.

“We made a decision about five or six years ago that we would downsize our military (health care) capabilities in the United States … to only really focus on our deployed requirements,” Hyten said.

He estimated that the military only had 1,329 adult hospital beds staffed at any one time in the United States.

“We’re digging into the active duty force really heavily,” he said. “So the next thing that we’re going to need is to look into the reserves.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Daniel Wallis)