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NEWS | April 23, 2020

Pennsylvania National Guard opens COVID-19 testing site

By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler Pennsylvania National Guard

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Pennsylvania National Guard members and officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Mohegan Sun Arena April 20.

“Today was the first day of the community testing. We had a soft start; we did first responders and local health providers. They were able to come through – drive through – and get a COVID-19 test,” said 1st Lt. Owen Dietrich of the 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, and the officer in charge of the Pennsylvania National Guard forces supporting the testing site. “Today was basically their day, to make sure they are able to go out and perform their jobs properly.”

For several days leading up to the soft start, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Regiment; 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment; and 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, trained with Soldiers and Airmen from the 3rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Task Force. The 3rd CBRN TF, part of the Homeland Response Force for Federal Emergency Management Agency Region III, helped establish and run a test site in Montgomery County.

Before transitioning the mission to the 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, the 3rd CBRN TF screened more than 3,700 people and were prepared to train the Soldiers from PTFN with their lessons learned.

“We conducted a lot of training, a lot of hands-on training, and we were thoroughly trained by the 3rd CBRN Task Force who headed up the mission in Montgomery County to do their COVID-19 testing site as well,” said 2nd Lt. Brianna Stetts, medical operations for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment.

People getting tested must first register online. On arrival, they pull into the parking lot, check in and are directed into one of two lanes leading to a tent.

Once inside a tent in their vehicle, patients are instructed by the PA DOH and the Guard how to self-administer the test, seal the container and place it in a rack before departing.

“I think today was a very smooth first day, and I was very happy with how things went,” said Dietrich. “From all the higher-ups at [PA DOH] or public health services, everyone seemed happy with how we were able to function, and I think it was a very good first day.”



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