As the coronavirus outbreak expands in the state, the Wisconsin National Guard is being assigned to more missions and is training for possible additional assignments. Over the weekend, six Guard medical personnel began helping at Village Point Commons, a senior housing facility in Grafton. One resident died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and a few more have tested positive.
Guard spokesperson Capt. Joe Trovato says the Guard members will be there at least through Monday. “Not necessarily providing at ton of medical expertise, necessarily. We're literally an extra set of hands for their staff there, to assist the residents of the facility, " he says.
The Guard says one of the six is Capt. Heather Schaller, a nurse who in her civilian occupation works at a Milwaukee hospital.
Trovato says the Guard members are wearing military-issued masks, white coveralls and other personal protective equipment and are taking steps to not bring in the virus.
''All of our personnel have been pre-screened. When they're brought on to state active duty, they're screened medically," he explains. "They're screened on a daily basis, as well. They're having their temperatures taken and answering screening questions, as well."
Earlier last week, the Guard escorted a group of Wisconsin residents from Volk Field at Camp Douglas home. The people had been on a cruise ship with other passengers who had tested positive for COVID-19. Trovato says precautions were taken with that mission, too.
Roughly 300 other Guard members on active duty have been training at various Wisconsin armories — in case partner agencies ask for other help, says Trovato.
“Right now, the main indications are they might be doing specimen collections — so that would be the COVID-19 testing. Our personnel are right now kind of training to be able to establish mobile testing sites. We also have brought in a lot of logistics experts and planners to move testing across the state or drop supplies for other agencies,” Trovato shares.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Trovato insists the Wisconsin National Guard is not planning for any security mission in the state,or quarantine enforcement.
The potential additional health risk of being out and about would seem a burden to some. But Trovato says the members are ready: "This is absolutely what many of us have signed up for."
Seven hundred other active-duty Wisconsin National Guard members have been assigned to combat theatres overseas; 9,000 others could be activated, if needed.
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