Since early spring, Nevada Army National Guardsmen have answered the call to serve during the nation’s fight against COVID-19.
The response mission has been the largest state activation in Nevada National Guard history. The highest number of guardsmen activated hit 1,151 at the height of the call-up, and 900 Nevada Guardsmen now are on active duty.
In April, guardsmen with Task Force 17 started assisting the Southern Nevada Health District with warehouse operations in the valley. They distributed personal protective equipment to health care partners in response to the pandemic. More than 200,000 N95 masks, 260,000 gowns, 600,000 non-N95 masks, and 14,000 face shields were delivered to 22 facilities throughout the day. One of the shipments went out to Pahrump, and another was sent to Boulder City.
”This warehouse was acquired for the receiving of managed inventory from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] as part of the strategic national stockpile,” said Steve Kramer, a field coordinator with the SNHD. ”The office of public health preparedness continually plans for and exercises to ensure we are ready to respond to an incident, such as pandemic and biological-type outbreaks.”
Army Spc. Karim Arafa, with Task Force17, spoke about how the medical partners reacted when the trucks rolled up. ”They were really excited we were there to help,” Arafa said.
In late March, Task Force Med began community-based collection site operations and assisted medical staff in testing patients for COVID-19. The unit initially started at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, but local health care partners soon realized the need for the guard’s expertise, and their mission expanded.
”I just think it’s an amazing collaboration with the guard. We learn more efficient ways of doing things together,” said Dr. Elissa Palmer, professor and chair of family medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine.
During May and June, dozens of sites popped up throughout Las Vegas, and work with SNHD continued. Local casinos have opened their parking lots to support their communities, and more than 182,000 residents have been tested thus far, SNHD officials said.
Dozens of community-based collection sites are still slated to continue operations throughout the valley, and even rural counties throughout the state have requested the guard’s help.
Kramer elaborated about working with the Nevada National Guard during this pandemic. ”The skill sets for the individuals here are right on level with our operational and logistical needs, so it’s easier to work together on fulfilling the operation requirements,” he said.