Eighty-two days into the COVID-19 pandemic response mission, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have helped test 285,659 New Yorkers for COVID-19, delivered 16,643,740 meals, and assembled 1,399,580 COVID-19 test kits.
The New York National Guard has 3,402 personnel on the mission down from a high of over 3,600 personnel.
This includes 2,816 Soldiers, and 429 Airmen. There are 157 members of New York’s state forces- the New York Guard and the New York Naval Militia—who are on state active duty and supporting the mission.
State officials are currently focused on “reopening” more businesses and other activities on a regional basis across New York.
“We’re turning the page on the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re focusing on two tracks going forward – monitoring the reopening and supercharging the reopening,” New York Governor An-drew M. Cuomo said.
By May 28, nine of ten regions in New York had begun to reopen while New York City, the final region, was still working to meet the opening metrics for available hospital bed space and availa-ble contact tracers for potential new outbreaks.
“We’re starting to reopen in nearly every region all across the state – we have a dashboard avail-able so every New Yorker can see the numbers every day and our regional control groups are studying the numbers and the data. As the reopening process continues, we have to super-charge the reopening to make sure that the economy doesn’t just bounce back, but that it comes back better and stronger than ever,” the governor said.
New York National Guard missions are supporting that process from Long Island to Niagara Falls working in six geographic task forces and two logistics task forces.
New York National Guard personnel are most visible at 15 New York State-run COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites operating across New York. Army medics and Air Guard medical technicians have helped take tests, but most Guard elements at these sites are providing administrative and logistical support.
The testing sites are important during reopening for workers returning to work in construction, retail or other essential functions that had not previously received a test.
Soldiers and Airmen are also assisting at five antibody test sites being run by the New York State Department of Health. Those locations have conducted 8,749 tests. The antibody tests can de-termine if somebody was exposed to the COVID-19 virus already.
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has emphasized testing nursing home residents and staff and over the Memorial Day weekend, New York National Guard Soldiers assembled 350,000 COVID-19 test kits which were shipped to nursing homes across the state.
Working at The Armory at Sage Colleges in Albany—a former New York National Guard facili-ty—Guard Soldiers and Airmen worked in shifts of 50 to assemble the testing kits.
“Given a three-day period, we are getting the orders done in two days,” said 1st Lieutenant Jacob Puinno, a member of Headquarters Company of the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry based in Niag-ara Falls.
The COVID-19 tests involve taking a swab of the inside of the nose and then sending the materi-al out to be processed.
The test kit are composed of the vials to hold the sample, the nose swab, cotton swabs, labels, and a hazard bag to hold materials, Puinno said.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Soldiers and Airmen filled orders for each nursing home around New York.
As of May 28, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen had assembled 1,399,580 COVID-19 test kits.
Following the holiday weekend, New York National Guard Soldiers in New York City assigned to the 369th Sustainment Brigade delivered some of those kits made in Albany to 136 nursing homes and adult care facilities in the Bronx and Queens on Tuesday, May 26.
New York National Guard medics are also going to be conducting COVID-19 testing at nursing homes and adult care facilities as part of a statewide effort to monitor the disease.
The Guard Soldiers will be part of New York State Department of Health teams visiting these sites to conduct testing.
In Brooklyn, the 24th Civil Support Team is testing staff and patients at the Veterans Administration’s Brooklyn Campus of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System.
New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michel Natali, the Assistant Adjutant General, Army, continues to head a Dual Status Command that integrates Active and Reserve military medical personnel with New York National Guard efforts in New York City.
As of May 28, there were 288 military medical personnel working at four New York City hospitals in order to relieve pressure on the hospital staff managed by the Army’s 531st Hospital Center.
The Army’s 54th Quartermaster Company, which specializes in mortuary affairs and also reported through the Dual Status Command, worked in support of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Before ending their mission on May 24, these 70 Soldiers assisted in processing 10,110 human remains.
The New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade also worked with the medical examiner’s office to provide 200 Soldiers and Airmen to assist in the dignified recovery of the remains of people who died in their homes. As of May 28, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen had helped in 2,800 cases.
Assistance is also being provided to medical examiners in Westchester and Orange counties.
The Dual Status Command is also overseeing New York National Guard Soldiers at the Jacob Javits Convention Center where an alternative care facility was established. Javits New York Medical Station is now in a cold status to respond to future needs in the city as necessary. The Javits New York Medical Station treated 1,095, patients.
New York National Guard members continue to manage the Javits site as the unified command post for the multi-agency response, providing logistics, administration and access control support.
The New York National Guard also continues support to the alternate care facility at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island. Additional forces are providing support at three other potential alternate care sites on Long Island or Westchester being maintained in a cold status.
While food delivery missions have taken place around the state, in rural Chenango County and Schenectady and Albany, the bulk of the food delivery missions are happening in New York City.
Guard Soldiers and Airmen are working at 11 locations across the city. They load meals provided by New York City into cabs and hire cars which deliver them to individual destinations.
As of May 28, 16,643,740 meals had been delivered to New York City residents.
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen continue to operate six warehouses at locations in the Mohawk Valley, the Albany area, the Hudson Valley and New York City.
Troops are also conducting logistics support missions across the region. In May, New York National Guard operators delivered over 8.5 million masks, over 5.5 million gloves, and over 950,000 surgical gowns to end users, along with 64,234 gallons of hand sanitizer.
Alongside the COVID-19 mission, the New York Army National Guard’s Honor Guard teams are continuing to provide military funeral honors. But changes have been made to reflect Center for Disease Control guidance on dealing with the pandemic.
The Army Service Uniform worn by Honor Guard members now includes a black cloth facemask, and no more than three Soldiers will provide funeral honors.
Traditional parts of the ceremony, including the detail leader kneeling before a family member and carefully handing them the flag, have also been eliminated to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
“The detail leader will determine how safe they feel at the service and has the option to place the flag six feet from the next of kin, or on the casket,” said 1st Lt. Melisa Rosario, the officer in charge of the program.
The changes have been made to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health guidance for controlling the coronavirus.
Based on National Guard Bureau guidelines, a maximum of three soldiers are currently allowed at a funeral, so New York’s program is only offering modified honors.
Where they are permitted, each individual ceremony is directed by a detail leader, who has the duty of presenting the burial flag to the veteran’s family. That detail leader now has to consider health issue as well as leading the ceremony, Rosario said.