NEWS | June 16, 2020

Nevada Guard helps fight COVID-19 in historic response

By Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie 17th Sustainment Brigade

LAS VEGAS - In early spring, thousands of Nevada Army Guard Soldiers answered the call to serve during the nation’s fight against COVID-19.

The response mission has been the largest state activation in Nevada Guard history. The number of Guard members activated hit 1,151 at the height of the call-up. There are still more than 900 Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen on active duty.

In April, Soldiers with Task Force 17 began helping the Southern Nevada Health District with warehouse operations in the valley.

Steve Kramer, a field coordinator with SNHD, worked for almost 27 years as a paramedic before joining the district.

“This warehouse was acquired for the receiving of managed inventory from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as part of the strategic national stockpile.” Kramer said. “The office of public health preparedness continually plans for and exercises to ensure we are ready to respond to an incident, such as pandemic and biological type outbreaks.”

In April, Task Force 17 Soldiers geared up and distributed personal protective equipment to health care partners in response to the pandemic. Over 200,000 N95 masks, 260,000 gowns, 600,000 non-N95 masks, and 14,000 face shields were delivered to 22 facilities throughout the day. One of the shipments went out to Pahrump and another was sent to Boulder City.

“They were really excited we were there to help!” said Spc. Karim Arafa with TF17, about how the medical partners reacted when the trucks rolled up.

In late March, Task Force Med began assisting medical staff testing patients for COVID-19. The unit started at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, but health care partners soon realized the need for Guard expertise and their mission expanded.

“I just think it’s an amazing collaboration with the Guard,” said Dr. Elissa Palmer, professor and chair of family medicine at the UNLV School of Medicine. “We learn more efficient ways of doing things together.”

During May and June, dozens of sites popped up throughout Las Vegas, and work with SNHD continued. From The Orleans to Texas Station, casinos have opened their parking lots to support their local communities. Over 182,000 residents have been tested thus far, according to SNHD staff reports.

Dozens of community test sites are continuing operations throughout the valley and even rural counties throughout the state have requested help from the Nevada Guard.

“The skill sets for the individuals here are right on level with our operational and logistical needs, so it’s easier to work together on fulfilling the operation requirements,” Kramer said.