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Michigan National Guard tests at long-term care facilities

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Danielle Fary, 110th Medical Group, 110th Attack Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, conducts COVID-19 testing of employees at Riveridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, Niles, Michigan, May 28, 2020. As of May, more than 1,000 Michigan Guard Soldiers and Airmen were actively supporting the state’s COVD-19 response.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Danielle Fary, 110th Medical Group, 110th Attack Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, conducts COVID-19 testing of employees at Riveridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, Niles, Michigan, May 28, 2020. As of May, more than 1,000 Michigan Guard Soldiers and Airmen were actively supporting the state’s COVD-19 response.

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan National Guard visited three long-term care facilities May 28 to assist with continued COVID-19 testing in Berrien County.

This initiative is part of the Michigan National Guard’s collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the State Emergency Operations Center to assist with voluntary COVID-19 testing for staff and residents at the request of long-term care facilities across Michigan.

Testing was conducted at Riveridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, West Woods of Bridgman and Pine Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

“It’s important for the county and state to have a good baseline for the results of COVID-19 testing, so the Michigan National Guard really helped in getting the testing completed at multiple facilities to help collect as much data as possible in just one day,” says Jana Broughton, administrator at West Woods of Bridgman. “The Michigan National Guard was very professional and did a great job putting staff and residents at ease during the testing.”

Across the state, the Michigan National Guard has more than 60 trained COVID-19 testing teams ready to assist, 15 of which are currently assigned to support this long-term care facility testing mission.

Separate teams have supported Michigan Department of Corrections facilities throughout the state. These three-member teams include a certified medic to conduct the testing and two members to assist with paperwork, logistics, and non-medical tasks. Teams can perform testing or train staff members to test at the discretion of the facility staff.

“Safety for our residents and staff has been extremely important to our facility,” says Aaron Grandstaff, assistant administrator at Riveridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Niles. “We are striving to stay ahead of COVID-19 and getting the data so we know where we stand is a major factor in that.”

Maintaining this spirt of safety was paramount for the National Guard testing teams. All team members tested negative for COVID-19 and self-isolated in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. The teams wore personal protective equipment, including Tyvek suits, face shields, nitrile gloves and face masks (N-95 or surgical, as appropriate).

“In this time where you just don’t know where the disease is heading, so having a great team makes all the difference,” said Petra Woods, infection prevention specialist, Pine Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing in Stevensville. “We are doing our best here and we want to work with the community to keep moving forward with good results.”

“We have had surprise inspections and we are held to very high standards for infection control and COVID-19 and after a very thorough review we had no citations and no recommendations, which means – given the uncertainties of COVID-19 – this facility worked as a team, fighting the unknown …very successfully,” says Patrick McQuone, administrator at the Pine Ridge facility.

McQuone praised the National Guard’s work.

“In my 35 years of working in this career, this was my first interaction with the National Guard in a facility,” he said. “It was everything I thought it would be – the Guard members were polite, professional, kind and gentle. They helped to alleviate our fears and did the job they were tasked to do.”

Chief Master Sgt. Charles Halt, 217th Air Operations Group, Michigan Air National Guard, was one of the Guard members who helped complete testing throughout Berrien County.

“At Riveridge Manor, we completed around 40 tests with two teams in place, one for the COVID wing and one that tested the rest of the facility. We have 10 teams heading out to different locations across the state regularly [to do the same thing],” Halt said.

“I’ve really enjoyed interfacing with the community and we’ve had really positive interactions. We have been working jointly with the Army National Guard and it’s been great.”

After testing was completed, the directors of the facilities transported the samples to the county health department.

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