NEW YORK – Medical personnel providing critical care at the alternative care facility in the Jacob Javits Convention Center will be getting some critical support they need thanks to the New York National Guard’s 24th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team.
Known as the 24th CST, the unit is running a COVID-19 station to quickly test military and civilian personnel at the site for the coronavirus if they show symptoms or think they were exposed to the virus.
The team collects a sample and then runs the tests using its mobile lab to cut the response time.
The 24th CST, one of two in the New York National Guard, is made up of 22 Soldiers and Airmen who are trained to detect the presence of biological, chemical and radiological hazards using a sophisticated mobile laboratory.
That technology has been adapted to running COVID-19 tests.
“What sets the mobile laboratory apart is the ability to be on location anywhere or anytime we are needed,” explained Army Maj. Gaetano Casarella, the medical science officer for the 24th CST.
By conducting on-site testing for COVID-19, the CST can safeguard the medical providers, said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, the 24th CST team paramedic.
The CST erected tents where the test samples are collected.
The New York National Guard worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Active Army medical units, and state civilian employees to convert the convention center into what is being called the Javits New York Medical Station. The facility has 2,500 beds.
It was erected to help take the pressure off New York City hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. As of April 17, the facility had treated 889 patients.
The CST was on site from the beginning of operations. CST members were providing liaison and technical support for things such as mask fitting for the personal protective equipment (PPE), training on the use of the PPE and air monitoring in the facility.
The new COVID-19 testing procedure at the Javits got its first test on April 16.
While newly arriving medical personnel were receiving their PPE, a Soldier was exhibiting symptoms of infection. He was directed to the testing area.
The Soldier winced during sampling because the test involves taking a swab from the nose for 20 to 30 seconds, but he said the discomfort was brief and was nothing compared to how he was feeling.
The Soldier was escorted back to where he is staying to self-quarantine until his results come in.
The 24th CST has been playing a part in the COVID-19 response since the pandemic began, said Army Maj. Robert Freed, the 24th CST deputy commander. The full-time testing station at Javits is simply another mission.
The Soldiers and Airmen have been training their fellow Soldiers on how to properly put on and take off protective gear, and provided scientific information to other city and state agencies, he said.
“The 24th CST is doing something that is very monumental for both the CST community and New York City,” said Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. John Roldan, the 24th CST survey team chief. “I am extremely proud to be a part this unit.”