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NEWS | March 26, 2020

Michigan National Guard screens for COVID-19 at veterans' home

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard is assisting the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV), screening employees as they enter the building to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As one of 152 state homes throughout the nation, GRHV and the Michigan Guard continue the tradition of serving those that served. The GRHV is operated by the Michigan Department of Veterans and Military Affairs.

“As part of our preparation and risk mitigation strategy, we implemented a number of procedures to help safeguard the members that call this place their home,” said Fred Schaible, policy adviser, Michigan Veterans Affairs Administration (MVAA).

“We needed to implement a screening process for all staff coming into the building and in order to do that, we needed to staff it,” said Schaible. “We identified a need to have the Guard come and support us in that screening process.”

The screening helps mitigate risk to those living and working in the facility.

“The screening process is to ensure individuals coming into the building are not experiencing any symptoms or illness at the time and haven’t traveled outside the state or internationally to any areas of concern,” said Schaible. “We’re also screening for temperatures, which is a very important indicator if someone has a fever that could be indicative of exposure to COVID-19.”

The GRHV has capacity for 450 nursing care beds and more than 100 domiciliary beds. To care for its members, GRHV employs an extensive professional staff of physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians and recreational therapy aides.

“We’re there to assist the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to ensure proper safety precaution measures are being followed as employees enter the home,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Abbott, 63rd Troop Command, Michigan Army National Guard. “As employees come into the home, we ensure they wash their hands for over 20 seconds, fill out a questionnaire of where they have been for the past two weeks, and take their temperature, and if it’s over 100 degrees, they have to go home.”

With Guard members conducting the screening, staff members can focus on other aspects of running the home.

“Having the Guard here is providing that continuity – it’s providing a third party – someone who can be very attention-focused and detail-focused to make sure we’re screening folks appropriately,” said Schaible. “We really appreciate the presence of the Guard members because it’s showing the importance and reinforcing the screening processes being a critical tool to safeguarding our members.

“We are always looking for feedback and the Guard members who are here have provided us with some feedback in how we can improve processes that streamlined things and helped us really have a much more consistent and well-monitored screening process,” he said.

Individuals join the Guard for various reasons. Serving is one of the roles of the Michigan National Guard, and this unique and special assignment of serving those that served has extra meaning to Abbott.

“I joined the Michigan Army National Guard to give back to my community, and this is one of the great ways our organization can give back to the veterans,” he said. “It’s that continuation of service and making sure we are taking care of those veterans who are here and calling this place their home.”