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NEWS | March 24, 2020

W.Va. National Guard helps state respond to COVID-19

By Maj. Holli Nelson West Virginia National Guard

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – More than 60 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are helping the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WVNG is conducting missions to augment civil authorities, provide expertise to hospitals and first responders and help move supplies around the state.

Ten WVNG members are helping distribute food from the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway.

Eight WVNG members are helping distribute food with Greenbrier County Schools.

WVNG medical personnel are supporting the COVID-19 hotline in Charleston, answering calls and providing information to concerned citizens. Medical personnel are also helping state agencies with long-term care facilities, epidemiology and contact tracing support.

Liaison officers from the WVNG are working with the West Virginia agencies leading the response to COVID-19, including the Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Department of Education.

The WVNG’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Battalion, the 35th Civil Support Team (CST), and the 35th Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP), have instructed more than 80 first responders and hospital staff from Kentucky and West Virginia how to put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize cross-contamination.

“The men and women of the West Virginia National Guard have shown extraordinary tenacity, resilience and innovation over the past few weeks as we have faced an unprecedented challenge unlike anything we have known before,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia adjutant general. “During times of emergency, the West Virginia National Guard has made its mark as a calming force able to address any obstacle and handle new challenges. We will continue to be a leader as we work alongside Gov. (Jim) Justice, Dr. Clay Marsh, Dr. Catherine Slemp, and our various state agency partners who are working night and day in this extraordinary battle.”

Hoyer said the Guard is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health department to keep troops healthy.

“Our people and their families are our No. 1 priority, and our protocols and procedures for health screenings, social distancing, teleworking and personal hygiene will take precedence as we carry out our missions in support of this great state,” he said.

All missions performed by the WVNG are a part of a coordinated state-level public health preparation and response effort for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, initiated by the governor and led by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The WVNG has nearly 6,400 Air and Army National Guard professionals who frequently train side-by-side with state and local emergency responders, making them well-suited for domestic operations.