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    NY National Guard delivers 4.5 million meals, half million test kits in 62 days of coronavirus response

    NY National Guard responds for Operation COVID-19 in NYC

    Courtesy Photo | New York Army National Guard Soldiers, from left, Spc. Davier Weste, Spc. Cody Roche...... read more read more



    Story by Eric Durr 

    New York National Guard

    Sixty-two days after the first New Yorker was diagnosed with COVID-19, and 55 days after being called to duty to help contain the pandemic, the New York National Guard has 3,629 personnel on duty.

    This includes 2,994 New York Army National Guard Soldiers and 470 New York Air National Guard Airmen organized into six geographic joint task forces and two mission related task forces. Operations are taking place across the state.

    The state’s defense forces, the New York Guard and New York Naval Militia have also contributed volunteers to the mission.

    Eighty-one members of the New York Guard, the state’s volunteer defense force which augments the New York National Guard, are assisting in administrative and logistics roles.

    The New York Naval Militia, which consists of members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard reserves who volunteer to perform state duty as well, has 84 personnel on duty who are also working in support positions.

    During the last week of April, New York expanded its state-run drive through testing locations from 10—all but one of which was in the downstate region—to 15 with the addition of sites in the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier counties and central and western New York.

    The New York National Guard is providing administrative and logistics support of 30 Soldiers and Airmen, at each site. There are 675 National Guard members supporting all 15 sites, including combat medics and medical technicians to support testing.

    As of April 30, there have been 185,412 tests administered at New York National Guard supported test sites across the state. As of May 1, 927,438 New Yorkers have been tested for COVID-19, according to the governor’s office, and 308,314 have tested positive.

    As of May 1, 18,610 New York residents, mostly in New York City, have died from the disease.

    The five new test sites opened during the week of April 26-May 2, and staffed by the New York National Guard, are at:

    • Niagara County Community College in Sandborn, N.Y.;
    • The Buffalo Sabres parking lot in Buffalo;
    • The State University of New York, Binghamton;
    • Griffiss International Airport, Rome;

    And Monroe County Community College in Rochester.

    The sites that were previously operating, and continue to function are at:

    • Jones Beach State Park;
    • Staten Island adjacent the Staten Island University Hospital;
    • Glen Island State Park in Westchester County;
    • The Anthony Wayne Service area in Rockland County;
    • Lehman College and the Bay Plaza Mall in the Bronx;
    • Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens;
    • Linden Blvd., Brooklyn;

    And the State University of New York, Albany campus.

    New York National Guard Soldiers have also been expanding food distribution missions to locations in upstate New York.
    Soldiers are now providing support to the meals for senior program conducted by the Chenango County Area Agency on Aging.

    The rural county is located northeast of Binghamton and south of Syracuse, and has a population of 50,000 people scattered across 899 square miles of rolling hills and valleys.

    The Agency on Aging meal delivery program provided thousands of meals a week to residents across the county.

    However, the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic caused county leaders to rethink how to implement the program during these uncertain times.

    “Normally we have over 100 volunteers that volunteer for us,” said Jackie Lisk, the nutritional services coordinator for the Chenango County Area Agency on Aging.

    However, many of those volunteers were in the age category most susceptible to COVID-19 so Lisk and other county officials asked the state to assist.

    The Soldiers are using Chenango County Public Transit buses to deliver meals across the sprawling region. “They just showed up and started working,” Lisk said. “I was impressed on how organized they were.”

    “It seems like everyone is happy to have us here,” said Spc. Ross Gillman, a member of Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry. “All of the volunteers are extremely thankful and people are really happy to have us here.”

    One-time food drop missions also took place in Amsterdam, Montgomery County, and Delhi, Delaware County, with another mission planned for Fonda in the Mohawk Valley.

    Meanwhile, ongoing food delivery missions continue in New York City, and the Albany and Schenectady areas.

    In the Bronx, Yonkers, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan in New York City Soldiers and Airmen have distributed 4,446,811 meals since beginning the mission.

    National Guard Soldiers and Airmen conducting the first food distribution mission, launched in Westchester County early in the mobilization, have provided 97,628 meal packages since the start of the mission.

    In Albany County, troops have delivered 3,011 meals to quarantined residents as of May 1. In Schenectady, 3,406 meals have been passed out.

    New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been working at the regional food bank in Latham, N.Y. and have prepared 255 pallets of food for shipment across northeastern New York.

    A major New York National Guard mission entered a new phase May 1 as the alternate care site for COVID-19 patients at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan discharged its final patient. The New York National Guard erected the facility at the end of March, along with the Army Corps of Engineers and civilian contractors.

    The 1,095th patient treated at what was dubbed the Javits New York Medical Station, was driven out of the facility in a golf cart and then walked to a vehicle carrying a sign emblazoned with “1,095.” He and the other patients discharged May 1 were applauded by the staff and serenaded by a bag piper from the New York Police Department.

    The military healthcare providers working at the location left the site over the weekend of May 1-3.

    The New York National Guard staffed an incident command center at Javits, providing administrative and logistics support to almost 2,700 civilian and military medical personnel working from the location. One of the New York National Guard’s two civil support teams provided COVID-19 rapid testing support to medical staff at the facility. New York National Guard personnel also monitored the personal protective equipment donning and doffing station at the medial facility.

    One of the Guard Soldiers working at Javits is New York Army National Guard Warrant Officer Christopher Gallant. After surviving the disease, with relatively benign symptoms, Gallant volunteered to go on duty as part of the coronavirus response.

    Gallant has been serving as the safety officer at Javits.

    He was also able to play a unique role for the personnel of the 24th Civil Support Team (CST), which wanted to ensure that their antibody test system was functioning correctly.

    Gallant served as a guinea pig for the 24th CST. The team tested his blood and proved their system, when his sample showed positive for the antibodies that exposure to the COVID-19 virus produces.

    The New York National Guard will continue to provide support at Javits while it is transitioned into a cold status. The medical treatment section will be left vacant to allow viral particles to settle and then cleaned.

    The Javits location, and alternate care facilities erected at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island; State University of New York, Old Westbury and State University of New York, Stoney Brook on Long Island; and the Westchester Convention Center, will be placed on a hold status in case there is a second wave of the COVID-19 virus, according to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

    New York National Guard personnel are providing access control support at those locations.

    Fourteen pararescue Airmen from the 106th Rescue Wing are due to complete a mission at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York city in the coming week. The Airmen, who are trained in advanced emergency medical techniques, have been working with the staff to care for patients on ventilators.

    The New York National Guard continues to provide logistics support to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City as New York city copes with a higher than normal death toll due to the pandemic.

    There are 250 New York National Guard personnel working with members of the Medical Examiner's Office are assisting in the dignified removal of human remains when required. Another 70 Soldiers assigned to the active Army's 54th Quartermaster Company are also providing staff assistance to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on New York City. Soldiers and Airmen from a number of units are conducting this mission under the control of the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

    Among the response forces was New York Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. James Pruckno, normally assigned to the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, N.Y.

    He redeployed May 1 after completing his support to the medical examiner’s office.

    “This was definitely a different mission,” Pruckno said in a media interview to his hometown newspaper. “This was more mentally challenging, and also physically challenging."

    Members of the National Guard teams would support the city in recovering decedents from private residences, such as homes or apartments, nursing homes, or transporting remains from local hospitals.

    "The first two weeks were very busy and the last week, you could start to see a decrease, which was a very good thing," Pruckno said.

    The support mission also includes assistance to the Westchester and Orange County Medical Examiners.

    On Tuesday, April 28, the Navy and Air Force flight demonstration teams, the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, conducted a fly over of New York City and Long Island to raise morale and salute health care workers, and a New York Air National Guard unit played a role in that operation.

    The Eastern Air Defense Sector, a component of the North American Air Defense Command based in Rome, N.Y., staffed by the New York Air National Guard, provided tactical control and airspace deconfliction for the flight and also coordinated the fueling tankers for the mission.
    Unit personnel were also available to relay information between the aircraft and demonstration squadrons’ public affairs teams.

    “As New Yorkers, it was a privilege to play a small part in the nation’s salute to medical care workers and essential personnel in the metro area who have risked their own health to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Col. Paul Bishop, commander of the 224th Air Defense Group, which provides the New York Air National Guard forces to conduct EADS mission.

    New York Soldiers and Airmen continue conducting logistics missions, including warehousing and commodity distribution of medical supplies at six sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area, and Mohawk Valley.

    On a typical day, troops delivered 21 pallets of medical supplies and personnel protective equipment to locations in Rochester, Rome and Buffalo. New York National Guard personnel have also delivered 50,517 gallons of sanitizer have been distributed since the start of the mission.
    Soldiers continue to man phones at two New York City call centers, including one for the New York City Division of Veterans Services. New York National Guard Soldiers also continue to provide administrative support at two New York City 911 call centers.

    Soldiers and Airmen packaging COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health in Albany have assembled 503,560 test kits since starting the mission. These tests are distributed across New York.

    The governor is emphasizing the need for increased testing to help generate data to use in determining which parts of the state can loosen the current health restrictions on business and movement.

    In addition, the New York National Guard also stood up a separate State Active Duty task force to help cope with high waters on Lake Ontario. On Wednesday, Soldiers began that process by installing a protective water barrier near the United States Coast Guard facility in Rochester.

    The response to COVID-19 has kept the New York National Guard’s chaplains busy as well, Army National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Scott Ehler told his South African National Defence Forces colleague Chaplain (Col.) Rev. Elsabe Francis during an April 26 phone conference.

    “The ministry teams are on the ground with our service members providing daily support. Even though we must socially distance ourselves, we are ensuring our service members don’t isolate,” Ehler said. “We are desperately trying to remain spiritually connected and located to the frontlines of duty.”

    The New York National Guard and the South African military have a National Guard State Partnership Program relationship and the chaplains were exchanging best practice information.

    The chaplains have played an especially important role in helping Soldiers and Airmen deal with stressful missions, like the support to the medical examiner, said Col. Rob Mitchell, the New York National Guard director of joint operations.

    “We have learned very quickly that a pandemic like this, engenders a high degree of uncertainty and stress. The Religious Support Teams have been operationalized in a way we have not previously envisioned,” Mitchell said.



    Date Taken: 05.03.2020
    Date Posted: 05.03.2020 13:30
    Story ID: 369112
    Location: LATHAM, NY, US

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