By Maj. Holli Nelson
| West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | April 8, 2020
Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump authorized Governor Jim Justice’s request for Title 32 activation of West Virginia National Guard personnel responding to COVID-19 in West Virginia. This authorization will allow for 100 percent federal reimbursement of the Guard’s response efforts through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, while maintaining forces under the governor’s control.
“This authorization is a necessary step in ensuring that our men and women serving alongside those on the front lines in our state have access to quality healthcare, pay and benefits while also allowing the Governor to maintain control of West Virginia Guardsmen and women,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the WVNG. “We are extremely grateful to both Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for their work alongside Governor Justice in advocating for this authorization and we know what an impact it will have on our ability to respond to this pandemic moving forward.”
Currently, nearly 540 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.
Nineteen members of the WVNG are currently assisting Workforce West Virginia and have been receiving training to process unemployment claims to address the backlog of applications. By next week, our service members will be fully trained and able to begin processing those claims, and in addition, more personnel will be added to assist with answering calls to meet increasing demands for assistance.
Members of Task Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (TF-CRE) continue to ramp up their efforts to provide training to local retail establishments on proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread. They will be providing training to 43 stores today in addition to the 27 stores trained yesterday. This team has also been working with county health departments to develop guidelines for safe social distancing in essential retail locations around the state.
So far, this task force has trained 125 stores and 523 personnel while also assisting with COVID-19 drive through testing lanes in Huntington, Grafton, Weston and Brooke County starting today. Drive through testing support will expand to include Wyoming and Mingo Counties later this week and Hampshire County next week.
Our mission of supporting the most vulnerable populations in the state continues to make an impact and in the last 24 hours we packed 423 family boxes at the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington and 1,363 meals at the Mountaineer Food Bank. We are adding an additional five WVNG service members to assist with increasing demand at the Gassaway location later this week. Our refrigerated trucks assisted with the delivery of meals to Mason and Wood Counties yesterday totaling 1,490 meals. To date, WVNG personnel have assisted in packing and distributing nearly 60,000 meals to those in need in the Mountain State.
Today, our logistics team is continuing to provide assistance at St. Francis Hospital, alongside personnel from FEMA Region III, in the conversion of space to support COVID-19 patients while also receiving 5,080 goggles, 5,970 N95 masks, 3,300 gloves, 600 gowns and 105 face shields. The team also distributed hand sanitizer to Jefferson and Nicholas Counties and Cabell-Huntington Hospital today.
Our data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 205 contact tracing engagements and six expedited specimen transfers to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
The WVNG has conducted the following missions since coming on duty to support the state in all aspects of COVID-19 preparation and response:
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.