Image by US Air Force

American military leaders issued an executive order this week that mobilized the entire Department of Defense to prepare for a potential pandemic-level outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19.

The order was referenced in memos sent out to Navy and Marine Corps officials this week, according to the Military Times. It includes plans to impose fourteen-day quarantines for servicemembers who recently traveled to China along with those who came into contact with them, as well as treatment plans for any confirmed cases.

"We are taking all appropriate precautionary measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus," U.S. Forces Korea commander Army General Robert Abrams said last week, per Military Times. "Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well — get screened ASAP!"

At press time, the U.S. has only confirmed 15 cases of COVID-19. But with military outposts around the world, the Defense Department issued sweeping, service-wide warnings and orders so that it can be ready in advance, should the outbreak worsen.

Mike Hatfield, a Navy Lieutenant Commander, told Military Times that the mobilization isn't an indication that the outbreak is actually getting worse — it's just meant to make sure the military is ready just in case.

"As military professionals, planning for a range of contingencies is something we owe the American people," Hatfield told Military Times.

"We coordinate with other combatant commands to assess potential impacts in the event of a pandemic and we ensure the U.S. military is poised to respond as required," Hatfield added. "The military profession fosters a culture of planning, and the fact that we are coordinating planning efforts across the geographical combatant commands is consistent with how we prepare to respond, if directed."