NEW ORLEANS – More than 1,340 Louisiana National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are assisting with the COVID-19 response across the state under the direction of Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The LANG is supporting medical efforts, engineering assessment, distribution of food and medical supplies, shelter assistance, traffic control and drive-through testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) training. The Guard is also providing liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations centers.
In Orleans Parish, Guard members helped set up a temporary hospital with more than 770 beds at the Morial Convention Center.
"What's going on in New Orleans is a tremendous collaborative effort, and we are making significant improvements to the medical capabilities and surge capacity of the city and state," said Brig. Gen. Lee Hopkins, dual-status commander of Task Force Louisiana. "I am surrounded by outstanding men and women and am honored to have the privilege to lead this historic dual-status task force."
Guard members have tested more than 1,300 people for the coronavirus at sites in Orleans, Jefferson, Calcasieu and Lafayette parishes. The Orleans site has started using new self-test kits.
"There is less patient contact with the new test kit, and it's less invasive than the test that we were administering before," said Tech. Sgt. Tyquan Jordan, a Louisiana Air National Guard member with the 159th Medical Group who has been administering coronavirus tests in New Orleans. "It's sped up the testing process, and we can maintain a safe distance through the entire process."
The LANG has distributed more than 770,000 N95 masks, 3.6 million gloves, 595 ventilators and 104,745 Tyvek suits.
"Usually, we work on distributing very few commodities in very large numbers," said Lt. Col. Ignacio Assaf, who oversees the Unified Logistics Element in Baton Rouge. "With the COVID-19 support mission, we are dealing with many different items in much larger quantities."
The LANG's ULE and the 139th Regional Support Group have moved nearly 6.5 million commodities compared to the 2.5 million units moved during the 2016 flood operations.
While assisting five food banks in East Baton Rouge, Central, Monroe, Terrebonne and Jefferson, Guard members have packaged and distributed over 580,540 pounds of food.
"Having always had a passion for helping people, the Louisiana Guard was a perfect fit, and to help those in need now is a blessing," said Spc. LaDarius Daniels, a mechanic with the LANG assisting at the Baton Rouge Greater Foodbank. "To see people of all races and classes at the food distribution site really puts into perspective how many people are being affected right now."
Members of the Guard with the 62nd Civil Support Team trained more than 1,851 people how to don and doff PPE. These include military, civilian health care providers, Louisiana State Police, Department of Corrections workers, and support staff at many facilities such as the temporary hospital in New Orleans.
"By following the CDC recommendations for PPE, we're able to provide consistent and standardized training across the board, ensuring that all involved are equipped with the proper knowledge to keep themselves and their coworkers safe," said Maj. Matt Digby, commander of the 62nd.