Mississippi National Guard supports community with COVID-19 testing

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    Approximately 25 members of the Mississippi National Guard’s (MSNG), 186th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) and the 47th Civil Support Team (CST) assisted with COVID-19 testing, April 1, 2020, in Meridian, Mississippi, at the Bonita Lakes Mall COVID-19 mobile testing facility.

    The Mississippi National Guard is working alongside the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, to assist the lead agency, the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH), with COVID-19 testing relief efforts state-wide. The Bonita Lakes testing site is a single lane testing facility capable of testing approximately 100 patients a day, with the possibility of opening more lanes for testing if needed.

    “What we are trying to do is aggressively locate the COVID-19 virus in as many patients as possible to help slow the spread of this disease and ultimately shut it down,” said Wayne Vaughn, MSDH Operations Chief of COVID-19 Response.

    The 186th ARW is assisting the MSDH, however they are needed. Using the skills learned through their careers in the Air National Guard, airmen from Key Field are able to assist with anything from generator maintenance and repair, patient check in, traffic logistics, and administering the COVID-19 test to patients.

    “During this great time of need in our world, nation and state, the men and women of Key Field Air National Guard Base continue to amaze me,” said Col. Ed Evans, commander of Key Field Air National Guard Base. “We are fully committed to keeping people safe and healthy while providing support to the state, partner agencies, and to first responders.”

    The 47th CST is Mississippi’s full-time response team for emergencies that involve anything from weapons of mass destruction to toxic industrial chemicals.

    “Our job is to advise and assist the MSDH, to train team members on the proper personal protective equipment procedures, and to ensure everyone remains protected while in close contact with patients,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Yow, a non-commissioned officer with the 47th CST Decontamination team.

    Each tester is equipped with a powered, air-purifying respirator mask, a disposable isolation gown, and multiple layers of disposable protective gloves for optimal protection. Each team member received individual training on proper PPE and test kit protective measures, as well as proper hazardous material decontamination and disposal.

    The efforts of these soldiers and airmen along with all of the supporting agencies, plays a large role in conducting COVID-19 testing across the state to locate the virus as early as possible and flatten the curve of potential cases.

    Other partner agencies involved at this testing site include representatives from the University Medical Center,
Mississippi Department of Transportation, and Mississippi Highway Patrol.

    “We are here to help any way that we can,” said Senior Master Sgt. Chris Dickerson, 186th ARW Installation
Emergency Manager. “We’re working hard to get as many people tested as quickly and safely as possible.”