MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – The Indiana National Guard helped conduct the state’s first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site April 8.
Twenty-eight Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, stationed out of South Bend assisted with traffic control, lane setup and overall support to the Indiana State Department of Health, Lake County Health Department, Merrillville Police Department and other agencies. The site was set up at Merrillville High School.
“We appreciate the work that the Guard is doing in collaborating with us,” said Shane Hatchett, ISDH chief of staff. “We’ve had the Guard embedded in our operations center for about a month now, and we’re able to put these things together because of their assistance. We really wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
The site was chosen to make testing more accessible for first responders, medical professionals, essential business personnel, grocery store employees, bus drivers, and others who experience potential COVID-19 symptoms.
“A lot of people have been asking about more testing,” said Hatchett. “We are making it more accessible to those who are putting their lives on the line every day.”From inception to execution, the event was put together in about 48 hours after consulting with Dr. Chandana Vavilala, Lake County health officer. The Department of Homeland Security facilitated conversations between the ISDH, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Guard and other agencies.
“Indiana National Guardsmen and women support the communities they live in; they are neighbors, family member and friends,” said 2nd Lt. Shawn Stachula, officer in charge of the battalion. “It’s important that the Guard gets engaged in their local community because it gives an opportunity for Soldiers to be a direct first responder and engage and support in ways we may not have been able to do prior.”
The successful interaction between the National Guard, local and state agencies is crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community. Operations like the testing site foster further positive interactions in preparation for any state emergency as deemed necessary by the governor of Indiana.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, and Governor (Eric) Holcomb have been very adamant that ‘we are all in this together,’ and what we are asking of others we are doing ourselves,” said Hatchett.