By Maj. Josh Poling
| West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | June 20, 2020
Members of the West Virginia National Guard assist volunteers with the Greater Greenbrier Long Term Recovery Committee in preparing meals for more than 3,600 school-age students throughout Greenbrier County, West Virginia, during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, March 25, 2020, in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The Soldiers supported more than 30 volunteers in packaging and delivering the meals to needy children around the county and will continue to do so for the duration of the outbreak. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Edwin L. Wriston) (Photo by Edwin Wriston)
As we approach the 100-day mark of the COVID-19 response, the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) continues to take on monumental tasks for COVID-19 response across the state.
Most recently, the Guard provided COVID-19 testing support in six counties and at the 167th and 130th Airlift Wings for members as they returned to their first unit training assemblies since the beginning of the pandemic.
West Virginia continues to show low case numbers of positive tests, the recovery/active rate and percentage of population tested compared to the national average. More than 115,000 residents have been tested, 7.7 percent compared to the U.S average of 7.3 percent, while maintaining a cumulative positive rate of 1.85 percent compared to the U.S. average of 8.69 percent.
A focus the WVNG continues to take is the health of our Soldiers and Airmen, who are performing critical missions to ensure the state is postured to respond to any outbreaks or spikes in cases. As of June 19th, approximately 500 members of the WV have been tested. Test results have a roughly 24-hour turnaround, according to Chief Master Sgt. Tracie Darby, 167th Medical Group superintendent. COVID-19 testing will be offered to unit members through the summer.
“We’re providing this service to unit members so they are consciously aware if they have COVID-19, though they may be asymptomatic, and they can then take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Maj. Michael Battaglia, 167th Medical Group chief of clinical services and flight surgeon.
“This point prevalence testing is a snapshot in time of the population we have on base today. We plan to provide more testing throughout the summer. It gives a real-time assessment of undetected cases and gives leadership a background on the prevalence at this point in time,” said Col. Kevin Culbert, 167th Medical Group commander.
Task Force CRE has been maintaining vigilance in their efforts to help eliminate the threat of COVID-19 and has completed 688 missions. To date TF CRE and Task Force Medical have tested over 14,500 individuals at numerous testing location sites while simultaneously training local businesses, civilians and healthcare providers on the best practices of preventing further spread of this virus and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) wear. Along with on-site testing and training, TF-CRE and the WVNG public affairs team have created nine training videos to incorporate best practices and decontamination in both public and private businesses for use by the general public.
The production efforts of PPE has been an innovative measure. The WVNG, in coordination with private organizations and Prison Industries, has produced 99,000 masks and five thousand isolation gowns through to assist in building a 180-day stockpile in the event of a future surge of COVID-19 patients in our healthcare system.
Task Force Sustainment continues its food missions and distribution of PPE to all 55 counties in the state. To date, this task force has completed more than 900 distributing close to three million pieces of PPE to include N-95 respirators, masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE to ensure the safety of the public during this epidemic.
The Sustainment team working various food bank missions have helped assemble more than 112 thousand meal boxes for food insecure West Virginians. In addition, through a partnership with West Virginia Voluntary Organizattions Active in Disasters and Mountaineer Food Bank, established a third food bank in the Kanawha Valley area at the WVNG Rock Branch facility to provide additional support for food bank operations in the state. Through these combined efforts, nearly 230,000 meals have been delivered and these missions will continue into the future as long as the threat of the pandemic is looming.
With the upcoming school year nearing, the WVNG is advising academic institutions and community centers with best practices for re-opening and has provided PPE to a large portion of K-12 and academic institutions in the state.
In addition to assisting academic institutions, Task Force CRE has been involved in building and HVAC disinfection and sanitization, particularly for locations that have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. Most recently, this team sanitized the Huttonsville Correctional Facility, which consisted of more than one million cubic feet of space. Also, in partnership with Yeager Airport, our teams have provided sanitization of public transport and first responder vehicles, equating to nearly 600 vehicles being properly cleaned and ready to return to the front lines in communities across the state.
Going forward, an important mission that the Guard will continue is the voluntary COVID-19 mapping, which is an augmentation through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources six regional epidemiology teams. The ability for the WVNG to assist state and federal officials to better understand the COVID-19 virus as well as place measures on the ways to combat and defend against the virus is paramount. To date, nearly 12 thousand residents have been added to the system to help understand how the virus infects, spreads and is defeated or prevented.
With no apparent end of the virus in the near future, the WVNG will continue to be a driving force in the protection of the people of West Virginia. One thing will remain a positive effort, and that is the beacon of light the Soldiers and Airmen of the WVNG will provide to the people of the Mountain State when they are called upon.