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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2021

Michigan National Guard expands COVID-19 efforts statewide

By Bruce Huffman Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard (MING) expanded its COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts Jan. 24, deploying three additional task forces to assist state and local health departments throughout Michigan.

One MING COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Team (CVTT) has been at the Lansing Mall since Jan. 24, helping administer vaccinations to residents from Barry and Eaton counties.

The space and all utilities for the vaccination clinic site were donated by the mall. About 40 vaccinations per hour are administered at four vaccination pods, said Ann Barna, planning director with the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.

“There’s plenty of room here, and we plan on expanding to six vaccination pods and doubling the amount of appointments and vaccinations as soon as more vaccine is available,” Barna said. “This is the largest vaccination effort we’ve ever done. We’ve also never had to maintain social distancing or take as many precautions as we’ve had to with COVID-19.”

Barna said there is not a lot of funding to operate the vaccination clinics, so local volunteers and the National Guard are key.

“Working with the MING has been great. They show up, are reliable, and they are trained to do the job,” she said.

In addition to the medical staff actually giving the vaccinations, there are two nurse leads preparing the vaccines, volunteers at the registration desk, a registration lead, a volunteer coordinator, and someone to handle data entry.

U.S. Army Pfc. Christian Howard of the 1436th Engineers in Montague, Mich., was at the clinic scheduling appointments for second-dose vaccinations and entering data. A veteran in the fight against COVID-19, he was one of the Soldiers helping to solve a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) when the pandemic started.

Early last year, Howard and his teammates gathered PPE and equipment scattered across the state and organized it in a 130,000-square-foot warehouse in Lansing. They streamlined distribution methods for more than $275 million in PPE.

In the past year, Michigan’s Guard has helped with COVID-19 response, provided support during massive flooding, and kept people safe during civil disturbances.

“It’s been tough to get to this point, but each vaccination brings us closer to beating COVID-19,” said Howard. “People have complimented us for our professionalism and how smoothly the vaccination process has been, which feels great. You can see the relief on their faces as they leave the clinic.”

“Throughout 2020, the men and women of the MING stepped up as trusted professionals time and time again to support their neighbors when called upon,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “As 2021 begins, we are doubling down on our commitment to the safety of Michigan communities by doing everything we can to make this vaccine as accessible as possible.”

Michigan has started Phase 1B of their vaccination plan, which includes those over age 65. As more of the population is eligible for vaccines, the need for additional support administering the doses has increased. As of Feb. 1, the Michigan National Guard had administered more than 45,000 vaccines to Michiganders.

“We are here to help the state where asked,” said Rogers. “From the city of Detroit to my hometown of Calumet, the Michigan National Guard will continue to assist our communities in this very important mission.”