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167 AW COVID swab team services wing, community, state

167th Medical Group personnel conduct a COVID-19 swab test for an Airman over the August unit training assembly. All base personnel are to be tested for the coronavirus by the end of September.

167th Medical Group personnel conduct a COVID-19 swab test for an Airman over the August unit training assembly. All base personnel are to be tested for the coronavirus by the end of September. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Steven Sechler)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --

Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing continue to support COVID-19 testing throughout West Virginia for military members and local communities.

In addition to testing all base personnel, the team of medical technicians are also supporting tests at locations throughout the state with higher potential for virus spread in one facility or small area. 

“I serve as a medical team lead of 10 swabbers, and we get a tasking to assist in swabbing state-run facilities, from nursing homes to correctional facilities, or even to helping run a high density community swab testing line,” said Maj. Jaclyn Shoemaker, COVID-19 medical taskforce lead.

The tasks are coordinated through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Each specimen collected is sent to either local hospitals or state labs to be tested for the virus. Since this medical testing team has been set up, they’ve contributed to collecting more than 200,000 swab samples state-wide. This includes not only National Guard members, but individuals from communities in the state as well.

The guidelines in place for setting up a COVID-19 test line are designed to keep the technician, assistants and patients safe and reduce the chance of virus spread.

According to Shoemaker, nearly all COVID-19 testing is conducted outside to eliminate the risk of contaminating inside medical facilities. Each member assigned to the test lines is required to wear an appropriately fitted N95 mask, gloves, protective gowns and face shields.

“Ideally a nasopharyngeal test is given,” Shoemaker said, “You want to make sure you obtain an adequate amount of nasal secretions, so it doesn’t have to be in your nose for a long time, but you do want to make sure you have a great specimen to send to the lab.”

The specimen collected must always be in a medical professional’s possession and be handled safely during collection and transport.

While the team tests non-military people predominantly, the goal is to have all military members checked in order to keep a ready force.

“I think our job as military members is we need to be ready.” Shoemaker said. “It amplifies the strength of our force to make sure we are COVID-free.”

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