LATHAM, N.Y. – Seventy-two days into the COVID-19 pandemic response, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have distributed more than 11 million meals, assembled almost 1 million COVID-19 test kits and helped administer a quarter of a million tests.
As of May 18, the New York National Guard had 2,923 New York Army National Guard Soldiers and 442 New York Air National Guard Airmen working on pandemic missions – most of them on Title 32 502f orders. The federal government is covering their costs, but they are under the orders of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs has also mobilized 77 members of the New York Guard, the state’s volunteer defense force, and 88 members of the New York Naval Militia. Personnel are on duty from Long Island to Buffalo, working in six geographical joint task forces, two logistics task forces and a dual-status command task force.
The most visible mission remains the Soldiers and Airmen working at 15 drive-thru testing sites across the state, where 252,959 New Yorkers have been tested since the first site opened in Westchester County in March.
Over 1.4 million New Yorkers have been tested for COVID-19 at venues across New York and 350,121 have tested positive for the virus, the bulk of them in New York City.
Since May 3, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have also been assisting at five antibody testing stations established by the Department of Health. These tests can help determine who may have already had COVID-19 and developed antibodies to the disease.
So far, 6,453 people have taken the antibody test at the five sites. This test involves a blood draw, rather than the nasal swab of the COVID-19 test.
“This is a very clean, controlled environment,” said Spc. Matthew Porter, a member of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion.
The mission of assembling COVID-19 test sets for the New York State Department of Health is not getting much public notice, but it is vital, according to state emergency officials.
The weekend of May 16-17, Guard Soldiers and Airmen assembled 123,000 COVID-19 test kits. There was a push to have kits on hand to be distributed to nursing homes across the state.
The number of kits assembled by New York National Guard personnel for the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Lab stood at 963,630 on Sunday.
The Soldiers and Airmen were doing tremendous work in producing kits, said Patrick Murphy, the commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, during a statewide conference call.
In New York City, Guard Soldiers and Airmen have helped distribute 11,398,202 emergency meals to those in need as of May 17. Guard members passed out 434,738 meals on May 17 alone.
The meal kits contain basic staples and are picked up from central locations and delivered to specific locations.
In Westchester County, 122,491 meals have been distributed to those who need them. Food distribution missions are also underway in Schenectady and Albany, but the numbers are far lower.
In rural counties, the New York National Guard has assisted with food distribution efforts as needed.
On May 18, Guard Soldiers launched a new mission in New York City; distributing medical supplies and COVID-19 test kits to 136 nursing homes and adult care facilities in The Bronx and Queens.
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen continue to assist the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office with the respectful removal of human remains from homes. The demand for that assistance has declined since April.
Guard members continue to maintain a presence at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, where 1,095 COVID-19 patients were treated. The alternative care facility remains available should there be a resurgence of the coronavirus.
The New York National Guard also continues access control missions at three alternative care facilities constructed on Long Island and in Westchester County but which were not needed and are being held in reserve.
Guard Soldiers and Airmen continue to conduct warehouse missions across the state, receiving medical supplies and moving them where needed.
Pvt. Matthew Klug, a member of 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, based in Niagara Falls, has been working at the drive-thru test site at Niagara Community College.
It’s not the mission he was trained to do as an infantryman, but he is proud of what is doing.
“I joined the National Guard to serve, mainly because I have a son,” Klug explained. “He’s about to be 2 this year, in June. I wanted to have him look up to his father one day and say, ‘Hey, my dad served. My dad helped out. He made a difference.’”