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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2020

Nevada National Guard stays in fight against COVID-19

By Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka and Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie Nevada National Guard

LAS VEGAS – More than eight months into the Nevada National Guard's battle against COVID-19, the stubborn microscopic enemy shows no sign of surrender as many of the state's counties report record numbers of cases.

Even though nearly 400 Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen were on duty daily in November supporting the state's effort to curb the pandemic, Clark County reported on Nov. 19 that it had topped 100,000 cases, the same day Washoe County reported its record high of active cases, 5,878. Washoe County reported four times the number of cases Nov. 19 than on Oct. 18 (1,432).

Dozens of Airmen and Soldiers in the Nevada Guard have also reported contracting the disease.

Since the mission began in April, members of the Guard have distributed more than 2 million K/N95 masks, 3.5 million surgical masks, 8.3 million pairs of gloves and 1.1 million Tyvek shields. They also distributed about 2.9 million meals and administered more than 1.1 million coronavirus tests.

"The Nevada Guard has been an indispensable part of the whole of community response to the COVID-19 outbreak," said Lt. Col. Brett Compston, director of the Nevada Guard's Joint and Domestic Operations section. "However, despite all efforts to increase testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment distribution, we will not be able to mitigate the exponential spread of the virus unless the public embraces all aspects of strict adherence to social distancing and protective measures."

Nearly 400 Guard members – down from April's high of 1,150 Soldiers and Airmen on duty – remained on health response duty through the autumn. They performed a familiar list of tasks, including staffing community-based collection sites, warehouse support and contact tracing. The COVID-19 health response this past spring was the largest domestic activation in Nevada Guard history.

In late November, Task Force 422 in northern Nevada had more than 130 Soldiers on 12 missions, including assisting at the Northern Nevada Food Bank, helping with Washoe County Health District mapping and data input, and conducting community-based collections.

The health response duty for all Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen is scheduled to conclude by late December. However, Compston said Gov. Steve Sisolak is likely to request funding to continue the Guard's support.

In November in Las Vegas, more than 50 Guard members teamed with the Clark County Fire Department's mobile surge command to test people for the coronavirus. More than 1,900 people were screened on the first day of operations at a new test site at the Texas Hotel and Casino.

"This is a cooperative effort between University Medical Center, the Southern Nevada Health District, the Nevada National Guard and the Clark County Fire Department," said Noah Wheatley, the Clark County Fire Department's deputy incident commander. "We want to get as many people tested as possible – without an appointment and for free. We are all professionals with the same resolution – winning the battle against this coronavirus."

In November in rural Duckwater, eight members of the Nevada Guard surge team helped the Shoshone Tribal Health District test more than 70 of the 220 people in the remote Nye County village. Guard members had tested 80 percent of the Tribal elder community in July.

"We are very grateful the Guard is here to help," said Brenda O'Neil, the health manager for the Duckwater clinic. "I want to give them a huge thanks for their ongoing support."

The Nevada Guard also assisted the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony with coronavirus testing at the nation's Hungry Valley and downtown Reno locations. The majority of the members hail from the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes.

Since April, the Nevada National Guard has assisted at 10 tribal locations across Nevada, distributing food or providing medical and logistical support.

With the state's largest domestic activation in history about to conclude, Compston emphasized that all residents need to cooperate to eradicate the coronavirus.

"Nevadans must work together to combat this fiend," Compston said. "It's not about politics. It's about doing the right thing to help your neighbors and quicken our return to normalcy."