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Guard members continue to assist in COVID-19 response

New York Air and Army National Guard members pack food parcels at a food pantry in Westchester County, N.Y., March 12, 2020, in support of state COVID-19 response efforts. Members were providing food to families to make up for school lunch and breakfast meals students are missing after schools in New Rochelle were closed to prevent the spread of the virus. (Photo by Col. Steve Rowe)

New York Air and Army National Guard members pack food parcels at a food pantry in Westchester County, N.Y., March 12, 2020, in support of state COVID-19 response efforts. Members were providing food to families to make up for school lunch and breakfast meals students are missing after schools in New Rochelle were closed to prevent the spread of the virus. (Photo by Col. Steve Rowe)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- National Guard members continue to assist state and local authorities responding to COVID-19, or the coronavirus. More than 1,560 Guard members in 22 states are on duty.

New York National Guard members have been working with state and local officials to distribute food, disinfect public spaces and help run mobile screening facilities.

“We’re here screening the community, trying to keep the community safe and trying to stop the spread of the virus,” said Army Pfc. Justin Zammit, with the New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade, who was working at a mobile screening facility in New Rochelle, New York.

The COVID-19 virus has been especially active in New York state, with more than 720 reported cases as of Monday, according to the New York Department of Health. That’s left schools and other institutions closed and many grocery store shelves empty.

New York Guard members have been working with local officials to distribute food to those who need it.

“The community is extremely happy that we’re out here,” said Army Sgt. Corey Smith, with the New York Army Guard’s 1156th Engineer Company. “They’ve been sharing stories with us about how tough it’s been for them getting food at the grocery store.”

Smith added he’s just as glad to be helping.

“We’re all very happy to be here,” he said. “We’re just here to help out, hand out food and make sure everybody feels comfortable and safe.”

Working with the New Rochelle Housing Authority to distribute the food, New York Guard members have set up in prominent locations in the New Rochelle area.

“We have canned fruit and vegetables,” said Smith. “We have bags of rice, pancake mix, granola bars and assorted non-perishable items.”

Thousands of bags of food have been distributed, said Smith, adding that Soldiers are taking precautions to limit possible exposure to the virus.

“We have gloves,” he said. “We do have hand sanitizer on ground that we can use at any time.”

For Zammit, working in the mobile screening facility, the protective measures in place go further.

“We have sanitizer on hand and when we do the screening process the windows of the vehicles are closed,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize contact between us and possibly infected individuals.”

Zammit added that Guard members in the screening lanes also wear personal protective equipment to further protect against potential transmission of the virus.

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