W.Va. Guard provides rapid response for COVID-19 testing, supports DoD response efforts

By Maj. Holli Nelson | West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | April 15, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —

Since beginning operations in support of the state’s COVID-19 response 33 days ago, the WVNG has completed 388 missions through our four lines of effort of operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies and conducting data analysis to combat the virus. Currently, 602 members of the WVNG are on duty serving the citizens of the State of West Virginia.

                                          

Today, members of the Task Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Response Enterprise (TF-CRE) provided rapid response COVID-19 testing at Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for patients and staff. To date, TF-CRE and our Task Force Medical personnel have assisted in testing nearly 500 personnel for COVID-19.

 

Since our last update, conducted 52 retail trainings on proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear, supported four COVID-19 mobile testing lanes, and conducted training with three healthcare locations. TF-CRE is also returning to the Veterans Home in Barboursville to train the remaining staff on COVID-19 prevention best practices and proper PPE wear. To date, this team has provided training to 479 stores and 1,600 personnel.

 

Today, the first decontamination and sanitization of first responder vehicles from the Greater Kanawha Valley area took place in Charleston at Yeager Airport, including the sanitization of the first vehicle used to transport a confirmed positive COVID-19 patient. More than 250 apparatus have been identified to go through the sanitization process using hydrogen peroxide vapor and CBRNE best practices for first responders.

 

Utilizing the mobile sanitization trailer developed by the WVNG, nearly 500 N95 masks were picked up from local hospitals to undergo sanitizing via a hydrogen peroxide vapor machine today. Once sanitized, these masks will undergo a quality assurance/quality control test to ensure all standards are met and maintained for reuse of the N95 mask. This QA/QC process is being conducted in coordination with West Virginia University’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

 

Our mission of supporting the most vulnerable populations in the state continues to make an impact and in the last 24 hours we delivered 250 meals to Mason County and we will deliver 3,800 meals to Ohio County today. In addition, we packed 2,511 food boxes between Gassaway and Huntington.

 

The number of personnel supporting the Workforce West Virginia mission remains the same and 10 of our service members will complete training on processing unemployment claims tomorrow.

 

Our data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 235 contact tracing engagements to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia. To date, the 7 Epidemiology teams have conducted more than 2,500 contract tracings.

 

In addition to providing assistance to the state’s response to COVID-19, the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg sent a crew of seven personnel on a Department of Defense strategic airlift mission to pick up nearly 1 million COVID-19 test kids from Italy, to be transported back to the United States.

 

“The men and women of the West Virginia National Guard are exceptional at both our homeland response mission and our federal mission, as indicated by the work being done by our Airmen at the 167th Airlift Wing to assist the national level COVID-19 response,” stated Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG. “In addition, we still have nearly 900 service members deployed around the world who are supporting vital national defense missions. We continue to showcase the flexibility of our force to balance the critical needs of our state while also supporting DoD missions.”

 

The WVNG has conducted the following missions since coming on duty to support the state in all aspects of COVID-19 preparation and response:

                                                             

  • 25 Soldiers are providing assistance with food box building and distribution at with the Mountaineer Food Bank and the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington.
  • WVNG medical personnel are supporting the COVID-19 hotline in Charleston, answering calls and providing information to concerned citizens.
  • 17 Liaison officers from the WVNG are working hand-in-hand with the various West Virginia agencies who are leading the response to COVID-19 to include the Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Department of Education.
  • The WVNG’s Task Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Response Enterprise (TF-CRE) has provided instruction to more than 364 first responders, hospital staff, and retailers in order to help prepare them on how to minimize cross-contamination through proper wear of, “donning” and “doffing” of PPE. 
  • Soldiers from TF-CRE have provided capabilities for conducting COVID-19 swabs for more than 500 personnel utilizing PAPRs PPE that can be decontaminated and reused, greatly reducing the use of disposable PPE.
  • Soldiers continue to provide logistical support for delivery of PPE from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM) to hospitals and health departments.
  • The WVNG has fielded a network of seven epidemiology teams to assist DHHR with COVID-19 tracking and analytics.
  • We continue to provide logistical pickup and transfer of PAPRs and canisters to various health care networks in the event of a surge of patients.
  • Soldiers are providing traffic control assistance to drive through testing facilities in Huntington, Grafton, and Lewis County.
  • Soldiers are assisting Workforce West Virginia to increase capacity to process unemployment claims in the state.
  • Communications staff assisted in the testing of broadband access in underserved areas of West Virginia for telehealth initiatives and provided rewiring capabilities for St. Francis Hospital as it is transformed into an Alternate Care Site.
  • 25 Soldiers assisted in the transfer of medical supplies and equipment from Fairmont to St. Francis Hospital to support a surge in COVID-19 patients, if needed, at the ACS.

 

All current and future missions performed by the WVNG are a part of a coordinated state-level public health preparation and response effort for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, initiated by Governor Jim Justice, and being led by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

 

The West Virginia National Guard has a bench of nearly 6,400 experienced and proven Air and Army National Guard professionals who frequently train side-by-side with state and local emergency responders, making them well-suited for domestic operations.

 

Our National Guard members work and live in every community have a proven record of accomplishment supporting civilian authorities during and after homeland emergencies.