W.Va. Guard update on COVID-19 response

By Maj. Holli Nelson | West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | April 2, 2020


Currently, more than 420 members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) are serving the State of West Virginia through our four lines of effort to include operationalizing of the event, stabilizing the population, providing logistical movement of critical supplies and conducting data analysis to combat the virus.


Experts from our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (CRE) task force are conducting 20 training missions today for retailers, food establishments and convenience stores in proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear. There are an additional 200 training sessions that will be conducted in the coming weeks for retailers, convenience stores and food establishments, in addition to the PPE training offered to healthcare facilities and first responder agencies.


“The importance of the work our CRE folks are doing cannot be understated,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “They have been at the forefront of training and educating our healthcare providers, first responders and now others working in essential services to stop the potential spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia. It is vitally important that more and more facilities and businesses in our state and around the nation implement the types of procedures we are teaching to flatten the curve and help save lives through this challenging public health crisis.”


Over the last 24 hours, Guard members supported food bank missions in Gassaway and Huntington, packing 2,007 meals for West Virginia’s most vulnerable populations. Today, the Guard will provide one refrigerated truck to distribute 5,500 meals in Ohio County.


Our data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 430 contact tracing engagements and eight expedited specimen transfers to the state lab yesterday to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.


Guard personnel continue working two drive through testing sites in Huntington and Grafton and will support additional vetted sites as they come online.


To date, our logistical team, in conjunction with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM), has received and shipped critical medical personal protective equipment (PPE) to all 55 counties in West Virginia. Totals include: 672,000 gloves; 50,866 gowns; 72,107 surgical masks; 111,757 N95 masks; 46,215 face shields; 19,006 coveralls; 114 PAPRs and 1,200 PAPR filters.


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


  • Soldiers are providing assistance with food box building and distribution at with the Mountaineer Food Bank and with 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.
  • 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 Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Battalion, the 35th Civil Support Team (CST), and the 35th Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) have provided classroom and hands-on personal protective equipment (PPE) instruction to more than 157 first responders and hospital staff from Kentucky and West Virginia, in order to help prepare them on how to minimize cross-contamination through proper wear of, “donning” and “doffing” of PPE. 
  • Five Soldiers provided capabilities for conducting COVID-19 swabs in Morgantown March 23rd and 24th utilizing PAPRs PPE that can be decontaminated and reused, greatly reducing the use of disposable, one-time-use 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.
  • Our CBRN field is facilitating COVID-19 training for retailers, restaurants, convenience stores, health care providers and first responders.
  • Soldiers are providing traffic control assistance to a drive through testing facility in Huntington and Grafton.


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.