The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to increase even as some states are casting a wary eye toward the looming hurricane season. It begins June 1 and is expected to be more active than usual.
There are 31,800 Air and Army National Guard professionals supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s an increase of 200 from Wenesday.
In addition, 40 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have now been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 573 Guard troops had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures provided by the Pentagon. That’s an increase of 27 from Wendesday.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual, according to an outlook released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.
The group led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach calls for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes, according to weather.com. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or higher (115-plus-mph winds) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
This forecast is above the 30-year average (1981 to 2010) of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
For states like Florida, which gets hit hard by hurricanes and tropical storms, that means finding and addressing capability gaps.
“We are still figuring out how to respond to hurricanes in a COVID environment,” said Air Force Maj. Caitlin Brown, a Florida National Guard spokeswoman. "We have been thinking about this since (the pandemic) started and realized it will bleed over into hurrican season, which starts in a little more than six weeks. "
Once the gaps are identified, the FLNG will find ways to fill them, she said.
“We may not be able to reach out to the typical channels and we might have to partner more with state, federal and local agencies and Title 10 assets," Brown said.
Using Title 10 active duty troops is "not typically the first place we go,” for hurricane duty, she said.
Typcial hurricane missions put Guard troops in close contact with residents and Brown said that FLNG is anciticpating having to do that in a COVID-19 environment.
“We are planning on how to resuce someone while still maintaining social distance and making sure there is enough personal protective equipment on hand, what the burn rate is and how to train people who have maybe never done this particular type of mission wearing the particular type of PPE required for COVID," Brown said. "We are getting people trained in advance.”
The bottom line, she said, “is that when it comes down to it, our priority is saving lives. We will do absolutely everything we can to keep our soldiers and airmen (and citizens) safe, and that’s where the training and proper PPE comes into play.”
Meanwhile, another issue raised at a media briefing Thursday afternoon was that personal protective equipment has been an issue in Illinois, according to an official there, who said that soldiers and airmen are making their own facemasks and coverings. The protective gear is currently are going to those who are showing symptoms and to those who come in contact with potential COVID-19 patients.
While there are concerns over whether Guard units have adequate testing capabilities, a Maryland National Guard official said troops are able to get tested with a doctor’s referral while the Texas National Guard offers temperature checks, plus antibody and blood tests.
About two-thirds of the more than 31,800 Guard troops activited in the COVID-19 response are currently under orders authorized for up to 31 days in Title 32 502(f) status, said Army Master Sgt. W. Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau.
“As states amend orders and issue new ones based on their needs this number will keep moving,” he told Military Times. "Also based on response needs, as determined at the state level, some orders may remain under state active duty."
The status, ordered by Trump, means the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the cost, with control remaining in the hands of governors. It also means that those troops — risking thier health and that of their families by being on the front lines of the coronavirus fight — receive healthcare and increased housing allowance equal to active duty and reserve troops doing the same work.
There was an initial catch. Only troops on 31-day orders were eligible for the increased benefits. That problem, however, was since fixed by Trump and now states are going through the process of either initiating or amending those orders to meet the 31-day requirement for increased troop benefits.
Personnel in the Maryland National Guard are worried they will not receive the full housing allowance.
National Guard officials highlighted some of the efforts:
Maj. Pedro Concolino, director of the Connecticut National Guard’s State Partnership Program, said its SPP partner, Uruguay, is about 16 days behind Connecticut in terms of the virus progression. They held a virtual meeting that allowed both parties to look at the problem in a new way and continue to build upon their 20-year partnership.
“We don’t stop being partners just because we’re wrapped up in our own stuff,” said Concolino. “I think this exchange shows the extent to which both countries take it seriously. We both took time out of our schedule during a pandemic to talk to each other and share notes to try and potentially save some lives.”
Spc. Anton Horton, 1434th Engineer Company, Michigan National Guard, sets up a patient room with supplies at the TCF Regional Care Center, Detroit, April 9. (Photo by Master Sgt. Scott Thompson)
The Michigan National Guard, working alongside its civil agency partners, had to innovate lightning quickly to enhance medical readiness and create lifesaving alternate care facilities. Working together, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan National Guard transformed a 350,000-square-foot section of Detroit’s TCF Center into a 970-bed hospital, augmenting Detroit’s regional health care system with tailored treatment for COVID-19 patients.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before, so by definition, the whole thing is innovative,” said physician Lt. Col. Aaron Proffitt. “It’s pretty exciting to see how the Southeast Michigan community is coming together to support this – not only is the Department of Defense involved, but multiple hospital systems are contributing.”
As it stands now, the 9,000 and counting troops mobilized in every U.S. state and territory are sticking to mobile testing, logistics, transportation and other non-law enforcement support to civilian authorities, National Guard bureau chief Air Force Gen. Joe Lengyel told reporters Tuesday.
Current National Guard COVID-19 response missions include, but are not limited to:
*Full-time, 24-hour state Emergency Operations Center staffing to synchronize National Guard efforts with local and state mission partners to plan and execute an effective response;
*Flying ventilators and other critical equipment to support response efforts in other states;
*Providing mortuary affairs assistance as needed with dignity and respect;
*Providing time saving support to local law enforcement, freeing officers to perform their duty in the communities they serve;
*Conducting force health protection assessments to ensure our Guardsmen are taken care of;
*Manufacturing, sewing and distributing masks for mission essential personnel;
*Building and outfitting alternate care facilities to alleviate stress on medical infrastructure;
*Supporting warehouse operations and logistics efforts to help deliver and distribute lifesaving medical equipment and critical supplies;
*Delivering and distributing food in hard-hit communities and supporting food banks;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
*Providing vital personal protective equipment training and delivery to civilian first responders;
*Performing sample collection and delivery to medical personnel;
*Providing support and symptoms screening to testing facilities and passenger terminals;
*Providing transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers
Here are the latest updates of National Guard actions across the United States and its territories:
The Arizona Air National Guard delivered 40,000 yards of fabric from North Carolina to Arizona to be made into medical gowns. The wing volunteered for the airlift mission to speed the transportation of medical supplies and PPE needed for COVID response in Arizona.
The Arkansas National Guard has more than 75 soldiers and airmen on state active duty supporting state and federal partners in the fight against COVID-19.
*Manning call centers at the Arkansas Department of Health where both general and physicians calls are averaging 540 calls per day.
*Staffing the mobile triage center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with medics who are screening and testing more than 100 patients daily.
*Assisting the Arkansas DOH and the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management with logistics, medical, and communications analysis and planning, as well as liaison missions.
• Supporting logistics operations, handling and distribution of PPE and medical supplies. The team unloaded six tractor trailers, and processed 10,400 boxes of supplies April 12, in addition to the more than 36 pallets of supplies processed to date.
The California National Guard is loading and delivering pallets of ventilators to states heavily impacted by COVID-19. The state loaned 500 ventilators for treatment of COVID-19 patients in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada.
Colorado National Guard members are assisting the city and county of Denver in sheltering people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Connecticut National Guard assisted the Connecticut Department of Public Health in distributing masks, gloves, and face shields to local residential care homes, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia National Guard completed a convoy picking up medical ventilators with light medium tactical vehicles. The ventilators were picked up in Delaware and delivered to the D.C. Department of Health warehouse as part of Task Force Able’s COVID-19 response.
More than 2,320 Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen continue to conduct missions to support the state’s COVID-19 response.
*FLNG mobile testing teams continue sampling missions statewide, with more than 1,840 tests conducted to date, as the number of facilities requesting remote testing increases.
*FLNG continues supporting ten CBTS, having tested more than 46,550 Floridians.
*Task Force AID has been training and is preparing to provide medical professionals and planning expertise in support of the 64-bed alternate care facility at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The facility will be built out to 450 beds if needed.
*Mobile testing teams are now postured across the state to provide close support to county and state health departments. The Florida Air National Guard Bio-Environmental Engineering medical team continues to conduct mask fit testing and training throughout the state, and has additional mobile testing teams available to deploy as needed.
*The FLNG continues support to screening and information dissemination at seven airports.
*Guardsmen continue round-the-clock operations at the State Logistics Resource Center, as well as augmentation to the State’s Logistics Branch ensuring commodities distribution and asset visibility on both state and federal supply chains.
*About 500 soldiers are working in four locations (Flagler, Lakeland, Miramar and Miami) to provide support for a variety of missions, as needed. These missions include food distribution, traffic control, security, etc.
*To date the FLNG has completed three missions supporting the negotiated movement of ventilators and anesthesia machines from universities and elective surgery clinics around the state to hospitals.
The Georgia National Guard is reducing infection risks to 199 nursing homes statewide by conducting infection control measures.
Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers screen arrivals at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, in Honolulu in support for the COVID-19 pandemic response.
The Idaho National Guard has 40 soldiers and airmen assisting food pantries at three locations throughout the state. These personnel are helping prepare food boxes and assisting with food distribution to members of the community.
In addition, two soldiers and two airmen are conducting forklift and logistics activities at local warehouses.
The IDNG had personnel assisting with offloading FEMA supplies as they arrive in state and the IDNG delivered 150 cots to Idaho Power to enable the utility service to conduct 24-hour operations if necessary.
Idaho National Guard personnel are supporting the Idaho Office of Emergency Management in their Emergency Operations Center and the IDNG’s Joint Operations Center has been mission planning and processing Soldiers and Airmen as they come forward to support these missions.
The Illinois National Guard is supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in the temporary conversion of part of the McCormick Place Convention Center into an alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who do not require intensive care in the Chicago area.
There are more than 200 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen on duty directly supporting the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Guardsmen are providing facilities and personnel to support six Regional Medical Coordination Centers across the state as part of an Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Health Care Coalition initiative to pool resources and aid in the sharing of critical information across multiple agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19.
These coordination centers are located at Iowa National Guard armories in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Camp Dodge, Mason City, Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
Additionally, the Guard has established an operations center at its Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnston, along with task force headquarters at Camp Dodge, Iowa City and Sioux City to provide planning, coordination, communication, command and control of military forces activated in support of local, state and federal partners supporting regional response efforts across Iowa.
Every day, Iowa National Guard transportation units are on the road delivering medical PPE to county emergency management facilities across the state. With the assistance of the Iowa Departments of Transportation and Public Safety, all 99 counties have received shipments of PPE since these vital missions began March 24.
Additionally, the Iowa National Guard is providing medical screening tents to hospitals and clinics in Polk, Pottawattamie, Mahaska and Clarke counties
The Kentucky National Guard is supporting set up of an alternate care site in the Louisville Expo Center.
More than 1,340 Air and Army Guardsmen from Louisiana support civil authorities by providing medical, engineering assessment, commodities distribution support, shelter assistance, traffic control points and drive-through testing site support.
The Maine National Guard is providing equipment support to Veterans Affairs’ facilities.
The Maryland National Guard is helping protect vulnerable nursing home residents across the state by deploying medical teams consisting of doctors, field medics and behavioral health specialists to provide additional medical support, strengthen facility procedures, and assist in the adoption of enhanced protective measures.
The Massachusetts National Guard is delivering PPE to first responders and hospitals throughout the state and providing staff augmentation and meal delivery to the Holyoke Soldiers Home.
Currently more than 65 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are actively supporting the state’s COVID-19 response, with an additional 6,600 service members ready to assist.
Across nine counties, members of the National Guard are supporting requests from our local communities and state agencies. Response missions include food distribution, Strategic National Stockpile support, screening operations, reception and staging, supply and logistics management, state Emergency Operations Center staff augmentation, and alternate care facility support.
Joint Task Force – Michigan includes more than 120 Guardsmen to coordinate National Guard response efforts across the state.
Minnesota National Guard men and women are cutting fabric, laundering, and distributing masks to be worn by mission essential personnel in various agencies throughout the state.
A multi-disciplined medical team from the Missouri National Guard is providing patient care at alternate care sites.
The Montana National Guard is conducting temperature screenings at 11 airports and train stations across the state and also assisting with planning at the State Emergency Management Agency.
The Nebraska National Guard is supporting the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services with alternate housing for medical professionals. DHHS has three facilities in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney where medical workers can stay so that they don’t have to go home and risk infecting their families with the virus.
Additionally, 33 service members are logging people in and ou
About 800 Nevada National Guard soldiers and airmen will be on duty by week’s end in the largest call up of the National Guard in the state’s history. Much of the work will be in Las Vegas, where the majority of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths have occurred.
The New Hampshire National Guard is supporting 14 alternate care sites with approximately 1,700 beds.
Men and women of the New Jersey National Guard are helping set up an alternate care site in the Atlantic City Convention Center. The facility will provide 250 beds for non-COVID-19 patients.
The New York National Guard has 3,580 personnel on mission across the state, with six joint task forces to support state and local governments with logistics management, warehouse operations, as well as medical staff at Javits Center and New York City hospitals, and testing sites. To date, more than 810 patients have received care at the Javits NY Medical Station.
*New York Air National Guard pararescue airmen, who are trained as emergency medical technicians, from New York’s 106th Rescue Wing, are also assisting in city hospitals.
*The NYNG is supporting the alternate care facility at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island. • NYNG supports ten drive-thru testing sites, supporting more than 6,000 test appointments April 15. The sites have seen more than 105,000 people since mid-March, and are located at: SUNY Stony Brook; Jones Beach State Park; Staten Island; Glen Island State Park in Westchester County; Anthony Wayne Service area in Rockland County; Lehman College and the Bay Plaza Mall in the Bronx; Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, Flatbush in Brooklyn; and the SUNY Albany campus in Albany. Soldiers and airmen are collecting samples and providing general-purpose support at the testing locations.
*National Guard personnel continue food packaging and distribution in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan in New York City, providing 103,300 meals April 15. To date, soldiers have distributed more than 1 million meals.
*Similar missions continuing in Westchester County provided 54,273 meal packages and Albany County where 1,117 meals have been delivered to quarantined residents.
*New York soldiers and airmen are also conducting logistics missions, including warehousing and commodity distribution of medical supplies at six sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, and Mohawk Valley.
*National Guard logisticians delivered 43 pallets of medical PPE to 25 locations across the state April 14.
*Hand sanitizer delivery continues for local government offices in Ulster, Rockland and Westchester counties. The National Guard delivered more than 33,148 gallons of hand sanitizer to local governments.
*The NYNG continues to provide logistics support to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City. National Guard personnel are working with members of the Medical Examiner’s Office to assist in the dignified removal of human remains when required. The support mission also includes assistance to the Westchester County Medical Examiner.
*New York National Guard members continue to provide support to the New York State Coronavirus Hotline by working call centers in Rotterdam and Brooklyn to offer updated information to the public. Soldiers speak with an average of 3,300 callers each day at each site and have provided response and support to more than 174,070 callers since the mission began.
*Soldiers continue packaging COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health at the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany. They assembled more than 20,100 kits April 14 for distribution across the state, providing more than 138,800 since starting the mission.
North Carolina National Guard’s 403rd Quarter Master Rigger Support Team, based at Simmons Army Airfield on Fort Bragg, is supporting their fellow Guardsmen by manufacturing protective masks for the more than 300 members of the NC Army and Air Guard on COVID-19 response duty throughout the state.
For more than a month, the NCNG has been working side by side with NC Department of Health and Human Service, NC Division of Emergency Management and many other local, state, and federal partners providing critical capabilities such as: delivering PPE to medical facilities; commodity distribution; cyber security response and protection; warehouse and logistics management; and engineer assessments of potential alternate care facilities.
More than 125 North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. This includes assisting the North Dakota departments of Health and Emergency Services in any requested capacity.
The Oregon National Guard is assisting the Department of Administrative Services with setting up 24-hour warehouse operations for receipt and distribution of all PPE received in the State. Additionally, the ORNG is supplying planners to the State Emergency Management Agency.
Nearly 850 Pennsylvania National Guard members are involved in supporting the state’s response to COVID-19. Some are actively conducting missions while others are preparing in anticipation of additional tasks with our state and federal agency partners.
The PNG continues: supporting the community testing site in Montgomery County and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; assembling 3,000 boxed meals a day which are distributed to local families in need; and planning with our state partner agencies. To date, the PNG has assisted in: returning quarantined cruise ship passengers to their Pennsylvania homes; providing logistical support to the Department of Health; supporting the setup of a FEMA Medical Station in Glen Mills, Delaware County; and transporting cots from Norristown State Hospital to the FEMA Field Hospital.
Puerto Rico National Guard has 544 soldiers and airmen working directly in support of the COVID-19 response.
The PRNG is collaborating with island medical schools, and more than 60 medical students are supporting the screening and triage mission in the five airports around the island.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 45,646 people medically evaluated and temperatures screened by PRNG soldiers and airmen at all five airports on the island. Of those, 153 passengers were referred for additional screening at the airports triage areas; 55 passengers were tested for COVID-19, counseled and sent home under the PR Department of Health supervision and their family doctor; and 130 passengers have been referred for home domiciliary quarantine.
In coordination with FEMA, PRNG soldiers installed a portable mobile hospital in Mayaguez, on the west side of the island.
Rhode Island National Guard members helped open a fourth COVID-19 testing site capable of testing 1,000 people per day.
The South Carolina National Guard is building testing sites and erecting tents for patient triage.
The Tennessee National Guard is assisting at 37 testing sites and supporting nursing homes with patient movement as needed.
To date, the Texas National Guard has helped manufacture and distribute nearly 2.5 million items of PPE throughout the state. Additionally, TXNG soldiers and airmen have helped test 6,695 people at medical testing sites.
The Vermont National Guard has established a temporary triage site outside of the Emergency Room at the University of Vermont Medical Center, where they are evaluating patients in a tent outside the main building in order to unburden the Emergency Department at the center.
Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been providing logistical support to the Montgomery County Public Health Task Force’s Mobile COVID-19 testing site in Blacksburg.
The Virginia National Guard is postured to bring additional personnel on duty based on the needs of the Commonwealth. This includes soldiers airmen to assist with operations, logistics and medical planning. Additionally, soldiers are assisting with logistics support at warehouse operations and mobile testing sites at several locations in the state.
All personnel conducting support operations for COVID-19 response are following the prescribed health protection guidelines of social distancing, cloth face coverings and hand washing.
The Washington National Guard has distributed 1.6 million pounds of food to those in need.
The West Virginia National Guard provided training on proper PPE, sanitizing and decontamination methods and best practices for the prevention of COVID-19 spread to staff at the Barboursville Veterans home. Guardsmen will make additional visits to the facility to train all support staff and facilitate implementation of plans and procedures for how to deal with COVID-19 positive cases, if any were to arrive.
Currently, 600 members of the WVNG are on duty in support of the state’s COVID-19 response, and have conducted 370 missions to date.
Members of the WVNG, Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, Yeager Airport, Kanawha County Emergency Management, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office and JanCare Ambulance tested decontamination and sanitization methods for first responder vehicles at Executive Air in Charleston. The goal is to establish a decontamination and sanitization lane for ambulances, police cars, fire and other emergency services vehicles that have transported known or potential COVID-19 patients, ultimately providing protection for first responders and their families.
The WVNG has added nearly 20 more personnel to assist in providing training, rapid COVID-19 testing response and COVID-19 lane support for drive-through testing in Martinsburg. Additionally, the Guard will provide the first of more than 50 mobile training team engagements in some of West Virginia’s most active areas, including Monongalia County and surrounding locations. Training of more than 20 retail establishments occurred April 14, as Guardsmen provided instruction on proper cargo, box handling and PPE wear. To date, this team has taught more than 1,400 personnel from 427 stores, while also assisting with COVID-19 drive- through testing lanes at seven locations across the Mountain State.
Specific facility best practices and PPE training was also conducted at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood, and members provided training to five of the seven largest hospitals in the state.
WVNG’s mission of supporting the most vulnerable populations in the state continues to make an impact as Guardsmen delivered more than 5,000 meals through our refrigerated trucks to Boone, Tyler, Webster and Wirt Counties April 14. In addition, service members packed 184 one-day family boxes at the Mountaineer Food Bank.
Task Force Sustainment, the team dedicated to moving critical PPE supplies and running supply chain logistics for COVID-19 response, is continuing to refine PPE distribution processes with WVNG agency partners at the Department of Health and Human Resources and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. April 13, TF-Sustainment received 96,000 surgical masks, 25,200 face shields, and 200 gallons of hand sanitizer.
WVNG data analysts working with DHHR’s regional epidemiology teams were able to support 194 contact tracing engagements to two expedited specimen transfers to track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
This story will continue to be updated as the National Guard Bureau releases daily reports on National Guard activities nationwide. If you or someone you know is in the National Guard responding to COVID-19, and would like to talk about your experience, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.