By Spc. Adrianne Lopez
17th Sustainment Brigade
LAS VEGAS – Eighteen months into the Nevada Guard’s COVID-19 health response mission, about 135 Soldiers and Airmen remain on duty battling the persistent virus daily across the Silver State.
The ongoing coronavirus mission has proven to be the largest and lengthiest domestic response in state history. The COVID-19 health mission began in April 2020 and at the height of the response, more than 1,100 of the state’s 4,400 Guardsmen were on orders supporting Nevada’s pandemic response.
After emphasizing testing and personal protective gear distribution in the early stages of the pandemic, the main priority of the Guardsmen since the release of the COVID-19 vaccine has been immunization assistance to civilian authorities. Two task forces – Task Force 422 in the north and Task Force 17 in the south – support the coronavirus health response mission.
The combined contributions by the task forces to the vaccine administration efforts across the state have been impressive. In late October, statistics revealed Nevada Guardsmen had given 800,018 inoculations and performed 767,337 COVID-19 tests since April 2020.
Broken down by region, southern Nevada Soldiers and Airmen had administered 559,638 immunizations and recorded 648,312 COVID-19 tests through late October. In northern Nevada, Guardsmen had vaccinated 240,380 people and tested 99,025 individuals for coronavirus.
In Washoe County, more than 50 Guardsmen from Task Force 422 continue to support temporary vaccine-administration public sites to improve immunization access for the county’s residents.
The Task Force 422 team currently supports (or will in the near future) vaccination points at various schools throughout the Reno metropolitan area, including: Hug High School, Vaughn Middle School, Wooster High School, Dilworth Middle School, The Boys & Girls Club of the Truckee Meadows, Pine Middle School and Desert Skies Middle School. The Boys & Girls Club of the Truckee Meadows will likely be the final temporary vaccination site; operations there are set to cease on November 29.
At several non-school sites in Washoe County, 36 Soldiers and Airmen remain on orders to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccination support at multiple Point of Dispensing. Points of Dispensing are temporary sites established by health officials where vaccines can be quickly dispensed to large numbers of people.
In southern Nevada, Guardsmen remain very visible on all three College of Southern Nevada campuses. At each site, 11 Soldiers and Airmen are on daily duty to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and tests.
The Southern Nevada Health District and the Washoe County Health have become two primary allies of the Nevada Guard during the battle on coronavirus. After cooperatively supporting the state’s health response together for several months, the agencies have refined their combined operations and work together in lockstep.
“It’s been a great experience with Southern Nevada Health District,” said Spc Lauren Damiano of Task Force 17. “It has been huge learning experience for all of us.
“Should another pandemic occur in the future, we know how to set up operations quickly. We’re more prepared and knowledgeable should something like this ever happen again.”
Seven Soldiers also assist the SNHD every day by inputting patient data and scheduling future tests. Following inconclusive tests, lab technicians request future tests to determine if a patient is positive or negative for COVID-19.
In the Nevada State Public Health Lab located in Washoe County, 11 Soldiers assist with data entry and test scheduling.
It’s an important job that allows the lab personnel to focus on the outcome of the coronavirus tests and not administrative tasks.
“The pandemic has been horrible but the experience supporting the state has been great,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Vance of Task Force 17. “The realization that my team provides a sense of hope for the community is amazing. My team remains motivated to show up every day and do the best job we can – not just for us – but for our community.”