Nearly 32,000 National Guard members are supporting domestic operations across the United States at the direction of their governors as of Wednesday morning. This includes support to COVID-19, civil disturbance, and natural disaster missions such as floods and wildfires.
National Guard professionals continue COVID-19 response efforts in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.
Presently, there are more than 69,000 Guard men and women engaged in homeland and overseas missions.
“In every single state across our nation we have Guardsmen … who are working together with first responders and all of the organizations and agencies to help shepherd us through to the other side of this pandemic,” said Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “We’re very proud of being an important piece of the Air Force and the Army, but what we’re doing now for this pandemic is uniquely and distinctly National Guard business”
Technology streamlines Wisconsin Guard COVID-19 testing
The Wisconsin National Guard, working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, rolled out new technology to streamline COVID-19 testing.
The Dynamics Testing and Registration Application, also known as COVID Connect, enables people to register online before being tested for the coronavirus.
The program was developed by the State Emergency Operations Center contact tracing team, Microsoft and other stakeholders, said Maj. Russel Simonis, the officer in charge of the Wisconsin National Guard specimen collection team.
Before arriving for a test, patients fill out a brief questionnaire covering symptoms, contact information, and date of birth to verify identity. The patient then receives two emails – a confirmation email with a QR code and an email with a link to the system to report suspected COVID-19 exposure.
“The biggest effects are faster testing process, allowing for a higher throughput at the point of collection, data accuracy, and faster result notifications for the individuals being tested,” Simonis said.
Once complete, results are emailed to the tested individual.
The technology was tested at the Alliant Energy Center testing site in Madison in early July. Since implementation, the system has increased testing as much as 40 percent per hour.
“It’s been implemented here for two days, and has increased our efficiency by almost 100 cars per hour,” said Capt. Jordan Schultz, the regional officer in charge of the Wisconsin National Guard’s Task Force Charlie.
Guard adapts to changing missions during COVID-19 response
While many across the state are returning to work, hundreds of Washington National Guard soldiers and airmen continue to support the COVID-19 response.
Since April, Guardsmen have been helping the state get through the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918. But some of the jobs they are performing have changed.
“When I first started on orders, I was working at a test site in Bremerton, but now I am making the test kits,” said Spc. Dameon Spurgeon, a motor transportation operator with 1041st Transportation Company out of Montesano. “I was confused at first why we were wearing protective suits and PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) masks, but then we started testing people and it made sense; we were interacting directly with individuals that could have the virus.”
Spurgeon is one of more than 1,000 Washington Guardsmen activated to support the COVID response. They continue to support food banks, conduct COVID mapping, operate community-based test sites, assemble test kits and process unemployment claims. Spurgeon is part of a team tasked with making more than 2.4 million test kits for the state by the end of August.
“I know this mission is critical, and we are running very smoothly,” he said. “I think we are expected to break 1 million next week.”
An aquatics manager at Great Wolf Lodge and reserve police officer in Tenino, Spurgeon says supporting the COVID response is just part of what he likes to do – helping those in need. In 2017, he was activated to fill sandbags in response to a flood in the small eastern Washington town of Sprague.
“I have always wanted to help our communities, whether it is being a lifeguard, a police officer or a Guardsmen. I am just happy to help,” Spurgeon said.
National Guardsmen in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia are engaged in combating COVID-19. At the direction of their governors Guardsmen continue to focus on testing and screening, as well as providing logistical support through warehousing and distribution of medical supplies and Food.
As of July 9, the National Guard response has achieved historic levels of support in all four of those areas:
Testing and screening – Guardsmen have administered more than 2.4 million tests or screenings and conducted more than 7,000 missions in support of testing and screening.
Logistics – Soldiers and airmen have provided more than 149.3 million meals; delivered more than 88,000 tons of bulk food and more than 29,500 pallets of essential supplies and driven more than 1.6 million miles to deliver personal protective equipment, food and other essential supplies.
Medical and general support – Guardsmen have increased bed capacity at alternate care facilities by more than 18,000 beds; delivered more than 190 million PPE items; made more than 18 million masks and have answered more than 736,000 calls in call centers across the nation.
Increasing partnerships – Soldiers and airmen have cultivated partnerships by disinfecting more than 9,840 long-term care facilities, nursing homes, VA centers and other sites; as well as providing nearly 600 liaison officers and planners to support various government agencies.
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