NEWS | Aug. 3, 2021

Virginia National Guard ends COVID response mission

By Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia National Guard ended its COVID-19 response July 31 after more than 460 days of assisting with vaccinations, testing and administrative, logistics and planning support across the state.

"I couldn't be more proud of the tremendous effort from our Soldiers, Airmen, members of the VDF and state and federal civilian workforce in their support to the COVID-19 response," said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia. "We also can't thank our families and employers enough for everything they have done to make sure our personnel could focus on their missions."

Nearly 600 VNG Soldiers and Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force completed more than 1,100 missions to help keep their fellow Virginians safe during the global pandemic. They supported nearly 160 local, state and federal agencies.

"The hundreds of Virginia National Guard members mobilized over the past 16 months to assist with Virginia's efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 have been critical to fighting the pandemic," said State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver. "The Guard's sustained support has helped save thousands of lives, and for that reason, we at the Virginia Department of Health are truly grateful."

Oliver said Guard members worked alongside Virginia Department of Health employees on the front lines of the pandemic response.

"When nursing homes and assisted living facilities were being ravaged by COVID-19 outbreaks, Guard members donned personal protective equipment and selflessly went into these facilities to help test every resident and staff person for COVID-19," he said. "For months, dedicated Guard members assisted with both large and small testing events in communities throughout Virginia."

Oliver explained the point prevalence surveys provided a critical snapshot of the extent of the outbreaks and informed policies that helped save lives.

He also said when COVID-19 vaccines became available, the Guard supported mass vaccination centers across the state to help the big push to vaccinate as many Virginians as quickly as possible.

Williams said the VNG's response had been a phenomenal opportunity to showcase the ability of the National Guard to accomplish non-standard missions and to apply military and civilian skills to serve their communities. The VNG also expanded its network of partnerships with local, state and federal authorities beyond the longstanding working relationship with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to improve readiness for future operations, he said.

"We are extremely grateful for the support that the Virginia National Guard has provided during the response to COVID-19," said Virginia Chief Deputy State Coordinator Erin Sutton. "They have been instrumental in providing assistance with PPE logistics, COVID testing and community vaccination efforts, information management, situational awareness and communications efforts. Whatever the mission, these men and women provide extraordinary service to the entire commonwealth, and we truly value them as a Virginia Emergency Support Team partner."

VDF personnel helped staff the VDEM Situational Awareness Unit monitoring the pandemic and all other disasters throughout the commonwealth, 24 hours a day, Sutton said. 

The VNG's focus is now transitioning from domestic response operations to its federal mission. It is on pace to mobilize the most Soldiers and Airmen on federal active duty since 2007. The 29th Infantry Division will mobilize the most Soldiers since World War II with troops deploying from units in Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky. 

Williams said the organization has captured the key lessons learned over the past 16 months and would be ready to support COVID-19 response if needed.

During the pandemic, the VNG:

- Conducted more than 210 community testing events, supported 280 congregate-care facilities, tested nearly 180,000 Virginians, conducted N95 respirator mask fit tests with more than 4,640 health care workers and delivered nearly 482,900 pieces of personal protective equipment.

- Helped distribute more than 1,249,400 pounds of food, delivering and/or serving more than 38,300 meals to Virginians.

- Delivered more than 167,480 laboratory specimens for the Virginia Department of Health testing effort and conducted more than 18,600 calls to help the VDH contact tracing effort.

- Conducted more than 200 vaccination events, administering more than 61,500 vaccinations and provided administrative and logistical support for nearly 470,125 vaccinations.

- Performed 55,515 planning hours in support of local, regional, and state emergency management.

- Filled positions in the regional coordination center for each Virginia Department of Emergency Management region, helping coordinate the statewide mobile vaccination effort.