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Guard unit translates coronavirus safety message

By Joseph Siemandel | Washington National Guard | Feb. 13, 2020

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Soldiers with the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion translated life safety and preparedness messages into multiple languages during February's drill weekend to help people who don't speak English figure out best practices for avoiding the novel coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been closely monitoring a December outbreak of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in Hubei Province, China.

There are at least 60,000 cases in China and 15 in the U.S., including a person in Snohomish County, Washington, who returned from Hubei Province. This patient has since been released from the hospital and is at home, being monitored by local health officials.

The state has no evidence the virus is spreading in Washington state and the risk to the general public is low. But the incident continues to spur questions from the public. And not everyone speaks English. The Washington Emergency Management Division reached out to the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion to help with translations.

More than a dozen linguists worked with the state Department of Health on messaging.

"We completed a total of nine translations, which was more than we originally had planned for," said Sgt. Sharon Gold, the state's Command Language Program Management coordinator. She said Guard members "are always excited to take on these types of missions because they can help our state."

Guard Soldiers translated fact sheets about the virus in Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Thai, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean. These fact sheets provide basic information regarding how you can prevent getting the virus.

"We knew the importance of this mission once it came to us," said Lt. Col. Teresa Wenner, commander of the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion. "I asked the staff and soldiers to flex their schedules, and they were more than happy to accommodate. These Soldiers make an impact both locally and globally, and this is another way they make a real impact locally."

The 341st is also undertaking a translation mission for the Emergency Management Division's Limited English Proficiency program that would translate messages regarding numerous different emergencies.