LAS VEGAS – Southern Nevadan Soldiers and Airmen have combined their best and brightest in Las Vegas to battle COVID-19 at two separate Community Based Collection Sites (CBCS).
There are multiple missions across the Silver State with roughly 653 Guardsmen on three southern task forces. Roughly 431 have joined the fight in northern Nevada. These men and women have turned in their weapons and armor for masks and scrubs in the largest state activation in Nevada Army National Guard history.
Soldiers and Airman with Task Force (TF) Medical began their collaboration with civilian medical professionals at the University of Nevada School of Medicine – Las Vegas Patient Care Center over a week ago.
1st Lt. Caleena Longworth, Officer in Charge (OIC) of the CBCS team at UNLV, explains the specimen collection process.
“When they pull up they’ll meet with the specimen collection team. It consists of one civilian medical assistant who will be taking the patient’s vital signs and will do the swabbing, and a medic who is with the National Guard. That individual will be checking the ID to make sure it matches and relaying the vital signs to the administration tent to be placed in the chart. The military medic doesn’t have direct contact with the patient.”
Longworth elaborated about their partnership with UNLV medical staff, “They already know what they’re doing, they’ve been doing this for five weeks and make our job easy. We basically augment and help them with the mission; they already worked out the kinks.”
Dr. Elissa Palmer, Professor and Chair of Family Medicine at the UNLV School of Medicine, has been working side by side with Nevada’s finest for nearly two weeks, even though their facility officially started collections March 23, 2020.
“I just think it’s an amazing collaboration with the Guard. We learn more efficient ways of doing things together. We were doing about 250 patients per day, but with the National Guard here we’ve been able to do more.” Palmer said.
Currently, the CBCS at UNLV runs operations from 8:30 – 4:30 everyday. Palmer explained that a person needs an appointment and that patients aren’t just driving through at random.
“Anyone in Southern Nevada can essentially go online to get our phone number or text COVID to 702-744-9722. Then they’ll go through a screening process with the CDC guidelines. Do you have a cough? Do you have a fever? What are your symptoms? If you screen positive and need to have a test you’ll enter your information. Then we call you back with an appointment time to come in.” She explained.
The CDC recommendation is self-quarantine until the results come back, usually within 3 to 5 days, according to Palmer.
The Orleans CBCS location just stood up operations this past Tuesday. This is an even larger collaborative mission than UNLV. It has six testing lanes instead of two. It’s also the largest combined mission of this scale thus far. TF Medical, 221, and 17 have joined forces along with the Clark County Fire Dept. and numerous civilian medical staff.
The facility started processing patients May 5, 2020. There were 357 tests administered by late Tuesday afternoon, according to University Medical Center spokesperson Scott Krebs.
“We’re looking at eventually upping those number to 1,000 per day.” Said 1st Lt. Thomas Payne, OIC of the Orleans CBCS operation.
Payne is a mechanical engineer in the civilian world, but since the activation he is in charge of bravo team. He commented on the meaning of serving his community during this outbreak.
“To be able to give back, I really can’t put into words. Like I’ve been telling some of my Soldiers today, as long as we move forward with strength, knowledge, and love there’s nothing we can’t do.”
The Guard is a diverse force, but one thing that surely binds us all together is our sense of duty to each other, to our community, and to our nation.