More than 5,000 National Guard troops will remain in Washington through mid-March to provide security amid concerns over potential unrest in the coming weeks, acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley said in a press briefing on Monday.
There are currently 15,000 troops in the city with the numbers due to be reduced to 7,000 by the end of the week and 5,600 by mid-March, according to National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson.
Five hundred members will support the US Park Police and 550 members will support the Metropolitan Police Department over the next two weeks. Another 5,000 will continue supporting Capitol Police and 600 will support the US Secret Service through mid-March, Whitley said.
“There are several upcoming events – we don’t know what they are – over the next several weeks, and they’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests, First Amendment-protected protests, that could either be used by malicious actors, or other problems that could emerge,” Whitley said.
As CNN previously reported, 25,000 National Guard troops were brought to Washington to help secure the city through President Joe Biden’s inauguration following the deadly riot at the US Capitol earlier in the month. And discussions had been taking place to keep thousands of troops in the district until March because of concerns about potential unrest during the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump and around Biden’s first joint address to Congress.
The concerns stem from what defense officials say is ongoing chatter about demonstrations picked up by federal law enforcement. On Thursday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser referenced “intelligence from our federal partners that would suggest that we need more presence,” but she did not elaborate.
National Guard members remaining in Washington will provide the law enforcement agencies they are assisting with security, communication, medical evacuation, logistical and safety support, Whitley said.
It was also confirmed Monday that there has been a coronavirus outbreak among the National Guard troops in the city.
Two hundred National Guard troops have tested positive for Covid-19 while on duty in Washington, Major General William J. Walker, head of the DC National Guard, said. The 200 who have tested positive are being treated and quarantined, he added.
“Once we send a soldier or airman to a facility for a test, they come up positive, they are quarantined, and they remain here until they are cleared to go back to their state,” Walker said.
Hokanson said each guardsman who has tested positive for Covid-19 will quarantine for 14 days in order to make sure they are fully recovered before they return home.
CNN’s Michael Conte and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.