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Italy’s government has made a direct appeal to Defense Secretary Mark Esper for US military aid to help combat coronavirus, according to a US defense official.

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What Italy is asking for: The Italian defense minister asked Esper for critical medical equipment like masks and ventilators.

The Italian government also asked US military personnel stationed in Italy to assist local Italian authorities by providing medical personnel and field hospitals. Those US personnel would support Italian troops who are already responding to the crisis.

How the Defense Department is helping already: Esper recently made the Defense Department’s stockpile of masks and ventilators available to civilian hospitals in the US.

The military has units capable of constructing field hospitals that can help alleviate the burden on civilian hospitals.

What’s the bigger picture? Italy has more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases recorded by the World Health Organization and additional sources.

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The Russian military has already made a very public effort to provide the Italians with assistance. They have used military aircraft to fly in medical personnel and equipment.

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