CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Almost 350 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are helping residents and local and state officials battle the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways throughout the state.
The WVNG is delivering critical medical supplies to health care workers, educating big box retail stores, restaurants and convenience stores on protective measures, distributing food, directing traffic at drive-thru testing sites and providing information and analytics to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
"The WVNG continues to make significant headway in positioning our state for a robust response," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the WVNG. "Our men and women are showcasing the innovation, determination and driving spirit of our force in their actions to assist the State of West Virginia each and every day.
"As a state, we must continue to band together and support one another in our actions to stop the spread of this virus and flatten the curve," Hoyer said. "Every action we take in the coming days and weeks will make a significant impact on our capability to protect our most vulnerable and our healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this battle."
The Guard worked with the State Board of Education, community and technical colleges and business partners to help develop a prototype N95 mask that will be refined to meet medical specifications.
Guard members have delivered seven refrigerated trailers to help feed people in six counties. They are helping distribute 15,000 packaged meals to elementary schools, and 10 Soldiers are assisting the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington seven days a week preparing food for distribution.
The WVNG has received 7,045 gloves, 330 gowns, 31,200 surgical masks, 1,560 N95 masks and 139 coveralls from the national stockpile, with more shipments coming. The supplies will be distributed to health care facilities around the state with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHRR) and the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM).
This week, the WVNG will provide proper cargo and box handling training to big-box retail establishments, followed by restaurants and convenience stores. In Huntington, four Guard personnel are assisting with traffic control at a drive-through testing site.
Seven teams of Guard men and women are helping regional epidemiology centers in the data analysis and contact tracing of COVID-19.
Other ways the WVNG is helping respond include:
WVNG medical personnel are answering the COVID-19 hotline in Charleston, providing information to concerned citizens.
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), instructed more than 150 first responders from Kentucky and West Virginia how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize cross-contamination.
Five Soldiers showed how to conduct COVID-19 swabs in Morgantown using supplies that can be decontaminated and reused, significantly reducing the use of one-time-use PPE.
Soldiers continue to help deliver PPE from the WVDHHR and WVDHSEM to hospitals and health departments.
All missions performed by the WVNG are a part of a coordinated state-level response initiated by Gov. Jim Justice and led by the WVDHHR.
The West Virginia National Guard has almost 6,400 Air and Army National Guard professionals who frequently train side-by-side with state and local emergency responders.