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NJ National Guard will deliver meals, help retrofit buildings

New Jersey National Guard (U.S. Air Force/Released)

New Jersey is calling in members of its National Guard to help with its response to the coronavirus outbreak. But that doesn’t mean there will be armored vehicles on Main Street or outside hospitals right away.

For starters, only 150 of the state’s 8,200 total Army and Air Guard members are being activated and it’s still being determined exactly how they will be used in the state’s COVID-19 response.

“Right now we’re in the planning and preparation process,” said Kryn Westhoven, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

It’s also not technically a mobilization as full units are not being activated and deployed. Instead, the Guard put out the call that it was seeking volunteers to assist the state and 150 are being selected. All 150 will be considered temporary state employees of the state Office of Emergency Management for the length of their service, Westhoven said.

By comparison, more than 2,100 Guard members were deployed throughout New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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Brig. Gen. Jemal J. Beale, the Guard’s commander and the head of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Monday the Guard tasks were still being determined but would likely include areas such as logistics, transportation, traffic control, security or engineering for building retrofits.

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver also said the National Guard members would also assist with transporting food to vulnerable seniors.

“For homebound seniors who can’t pick up a grab-or-go meal, they will do a delivery to meals to our senior citizens and our most vulnerable,” she said. “Yes, we’re doing 10,000 things at one time. But our vulnerable population is not forgotten.”

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© 2020 Burlington County Times