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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2022

Vermont Guard to help hospitals facing COVID surge

By Maj. J. Scott Detweiler, Joint Force Headquarters - Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

COLCHESTER, Vt. – Vermont National Guard members will support hospitals struggling to handle a surge of patients sick with the Omicron variant of COVID-19. 

The Vermont Department of Health has asked the Vermont National Guard to shift support from vaccination clinics to local hospitals.

Health officials are reviewing how many Guard members will be needed at which medical facilities. Currently, about 120 Guardsmen are supporting the COVID-19 response, including 55 helping with vaccinations. Fewer than 20 have begun providing wraparound services in the region, but that number and the facilities supported will increase.

The Guard expects to continue assisting with vaccinations, warehouse operations, test kit assembly and voluntary contact mapping until no longer needed by the state.

“How the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affects our communities is starting to change,” said Col. Justin Davis, director of plans and operations, Vermont National Guard.

“When this first started, almost two years ago, we established an alternate health care facility,“ Davis said. “We augmented the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) warehouse, distributed food, conducted testing sites, and helped the state with contact tracing (later called voluntary mapping). Then vaccines became available, and we converted our testing team to a vaccination team. We also added a team at the SNS warehouse to oversee receipt, storage and distribution of the vaccines.”

In the first months of the pandemic, the Vermont National Guard helped distribute more than 3 million meals and has since received, organized and distributed hundreds of thousands of test kits and personal protective items to medical facilities and schools across the state.

“Vermont leadership specifically requested the VTNG vaccination team work with our immigrant and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) populations because of their professionalism. At this point, leaders from the immigrant and BIPOC communities coordinate with state leadership to specifically request our VTNG team and, as a result, Vermont has a strong vaccination rate among our BIPOC communities,” said Davis.

Training for military federal missions has prepared the Vermont National Guard to meet every request made by state leadership as part of their whole-of-society approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vermont National Guard will now continue to leverage those skills and adapt to the shift in mission.