New York National Guard continues statewide COVID-19 response
New York National Guard
/ Published October 20, 2020
LATHAM, NY -- More than 1,300 service members of the New York National Guard remain on duty October 18 for the state’s COVID-19 response, 225 days after initial operations began with 200 personnel in New Rochelle, N.Y. in early March.
As authorities closed down New York in response to the pandemic, National Guard members supported COVID-19 test sites, food distribution sites, cleaned public spaces in New Rochelle, staffed call centers, supported New York City, Rockland and Orange County medical examiners for decedent recovery and provided a massive logistical warehousing effort at seven locations for the distribution of medical supplies.
Since that first effort, members of the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, New York Guard and agency employees have “rushed to the sound of the guns,” Army Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, said during an online video panel conducted as part of the Association of the United States Army virtual convention.
“I know it is common military phrase, but I’ve seen nothing but great volunteerism, patriotism and enthusiasm of our members, the same as the police, fire and other emergency responders” during the statewide response, Shields said.
Boots on the ground peaked in late April with more than 3,600 personnel on duty statewide.
“Our New York National Guard response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented when it comes to the scope and uniqueness of the response,” Shields said.
Troops responded to a wide range of new mission requests, Shields said, from call center operations to COVID-19 test sites to decedent recovery efforts.
Currently New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are conducting four missions in support of New York’s COVID-19 response.
Soldiers and Airmen continue to help staff 15 COVID-19 drive-in test sites located across the state from Long Island to Buffalo. As of October 15, personnel helped administer 661,683 tests at those locations.
New York National Guard personnel are also working to help state emergency and department of health personnel conduct logistics and warehouse operations at seven warehouse facilities located across New York.
Another enduring mission is the assembly of COVID-19 test kits in support of the New York State Department of Health. Guard Soldiers and Airmen have assembled 3,846,777 COVID-19 test kits for distribution across the state.
On Saturday, October 17, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen picked up a new mission; assisting the Department of Health in screening travelers entering New York at state airports.
Personnel will replace Department of Health employees who have been collecting travel advisory forms.
New York State directs travelers arriving from one of the designated states with significant community spread to undertake a precautionary quarantine when entering New York for 14 days from the last day they were in their designated state.
The information assists in potential contact tracing should the need arise.
Balancing pandemic missions in the force with ongoing military missions, training and recruiting efforts provided their own unique challenges, Shields told the AUSA audience.
“During this time, we have continued to mobilize Army and Air units for active duty in defense of our nation,” Shields said, “continued to train our personnel on their federal military requirements, while at the same time devoting a significant efforts towards our state’s COVID response.”
While more than 4,500 personnel have performed some type of pandemic response duties this year, the New York National Guard has deployed 1,000 of its Soldiers and Airmen overseas, he said.
In a remarkable achievement in a time of social distancing, statewide missions and deployments, Shields said New York had exceeded its Army and Air National Guard recruiting and retention goals statewide.
Shields credits much of that to the very public display of Soldiers and Airmen across communities in the state.
“These last few months have been an adventure for every state dealing with COVID-19, and our Soldiers and Airmen of the New York National Guard have done a tremendous job in being flexible and responsive and being there for their fellow citizens for whatever missions come our way,” Shields said. “Along with all our leaders, I am especially proud of what our service members have accomplished.”
Even as New York has kept its COVID-19 positive test rate at or below one percent since August 4, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo continues to recommend vigilance.
After two months of statewide infection rates at or below one percent, October 15 saw micro clusters of infection climbing to an average of 4.84 percent in 20 communities.
"As we go through the fall and into the winter and cases continue to rise across the country, it's going to take the work of all New Yorkers to maintain our progress,” Cuomo said October 16. “We cannot and will not risk going backwards to where we were in the spring.”