NEWS | April 3, 2020

W.Va. Guard prepared to surge support in Berkley County for COVID-19 response

By Maj. Holli Nelson West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Currently, more than 440 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. By Monday, that number will reach more than 500 on duty.


“As the Governor has directed, and as we have done in both Monongalia and Kanawha Counties, we will surge National Guard assets to help our public health partners, Dr. Marsh and his team, to address the rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the Berkley County area,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard, during today’s press briefing. “This can include things such as additional personal protective equipment support using the reusable PAPRs system, providing additional equipment, or a surge of staff in the public health office that can provide epidemiology support for contact tracing. Also, where necessary, the Guard can support the movement of specimen for rapid testing of health care providers, first responders and law enforcement to avoid any cluster concerns in those areas.”


This morning, our communications team, in conjunction with Marshall University and West Virginia University, tested network capabilities for telehealth initiatives in Wharton, where connectivity is sparse. Monday, an additional test will take place in Hundred to determine how the Guard can potentially augment connectivity in some of West Virginia’s hardest to reach areas, which could provide access to telehealth for populations across the state. 


Starting today, members of the WVNG will begin assisting Workforce West Virginia to increase capacity for the state to process unemployment claims and assist our citizens in need during this difficult time.


Experts from our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (CRE) task force are conducting an additional 20 training missions today for retailers, food establishments, convenience stores and local first responders in proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear. Next week, this team is also planning for 50 mobile training sessions with healthcare providers and first responders for some of the areas in the state with higher numbers of positive cases, including Monongalia and surrounding counties.


Over the last 24 hours, Guard members supported food bank missions in Gassaway and Huntington, packing 1,647 meals for West Virginia’s most vulnerable populations. Today, the Guard will provide one refrigerated truck to distribute 4,500 meals to Putnam County.


Our data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 236 contact tracing engagements and nine 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 provide support in Lewis County starting Monday.


Yesterday, our logistics team received critical medical personal protective equipment (PPE) consisting of 863,040 gloves, 19,559 N95 masks, and 15,775 coveralls. West Virginia Guardsmen and women also assisted in the delivery of four ventilators to CAMC General and Cabell Huntington and more than 250 gallons of hand sanitizer to locations across the state.


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.
  • Six Soldiers are assisting Workforce West Virginia to increase capacity to process unemployment claims in the state.


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.