Gov. Gary Herbert plans to keep National Guard deployed after Trump extends coronavirus orders

(Photo courtesy Utah National Guard) Capt. Aaron Bybee, commander of the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion’s Alpha Company, is working from home to help the Utah Department of Health conduct contract tracing of people who may have been infected by the coronavirus.

Washington • President Donald Trump says he will extend the ability to deploy National Guard troops through mid-August to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, giving Gov. Gary Herbert the option to keep Utah’s soldiers and airmen assisting with contact tracing and delivery of masks, gloves and other medical gear.

About 160 soldiers and airmen in Utah have been deployed to help so far, though their federal deployment was set to expire June 24, one day shy of many National Guard members becoming eligible for federal benefits.

Trump tweeted Thursday that he will extend the orders.

“The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the CoronaVirus,” the president said on Twitter. “This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help States succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”

Herbert's office said he would take advantage of the extension.

"We are grateful to the Trump administration for supporting the National Guard’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19,” Herbert's office said in a statement. “Utah’s National Guard has been an invaluable resource, assisting with our efforts in testing, translation of critical communications, distribution of protective equipment, and contact tracing, to name just a few projects. We do plan to continue using them as long as necessary to support our efforts.”

Maj. Jaime Thomas of the Utah National Guard said the soldiers stand ready to continue to help.

“At this time, the Utah National Guard is working with state leaders to determine future requirements for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Thomas said. “ ... Utah’s more than 7,500 soldiers and airmen, standing shoulder to shoulder as proud members of Utah’s emergency-response enterprise, remain ready to support our state and nation in its time of need."

Herbert had signed on to a letter Thursday with 49 other governors asking Trump to keep the soldiers deployed during a critical time.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, thanked the president on Twitter for taking action.

“These are critical resources for states to have right now,” Hogan said.