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W.Va. Guard expands COVID-19 response

By Maj. Holli Nelson | West Virginia National Guard | March 25, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – About 100 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, helping the state distribute food and critical medical supplies and equipment to protect health care workers and first responders.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG, said the Guard is part of the state's coordinated response to the public health emergency.

"We will work to stabilize and support the most vulnerable populations in the state to include our senior citizens and children; provide logistical support to responding agencies in order to get critical medical supplies to those health care facilities in most need; and build a network of intelligence, public health and epidemiology experts in order to provide trend analysis for our state leaders in order to make the best decisions for the health and welfare of our citizens," Hoyer said.

The WVNG is working with the state's Department of Education and the Community and Technical College systems to use 3D printers to help manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks to help alleviate a shortage for health care systems throughout the state.

"As I have said before, the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard are the best and brightest our nation has to offer," Hoyer said. "They are once again leading the charge to respond to our state's need while also finding innovative solutions to critical problems and paving a path for the future, if and when we face a similar emergency. I cannot thank them and their families enough for the support they are providing during this unprecedented time in our state and nation's history."

Guard members are augmenting civil authorities, providing expertise to hospitals and first responders and helping transport supplies around the state.

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

Eight WVNG members are helping Greenbrier County schools distribute food.

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

Liaison officers from the WVNG are working with state agencies including the Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Department of Education.

Members of 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 use protective equipment to minimize cross-contamination.

Five Soldiers helped conduct COVID-19 swabs in Morgantown March 23rd and 24th.

Soldiers helped deliver PPE from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to four hospitals and health departments in the Kanawha Valley.

All WVNG missions are part of a coordinated state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, initiated by Gov. Jim Justice and led by the WVDHHR.