SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The Wisconsin National Guard dispatched a team April 5 to a senior living facility in Sheboygan to establish a mobile testing site and perform COVID-19 specimen collection.
Approximately 30 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen arrived early Sunday morning at the Sunny Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where they tested facility staff and residents in support of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.
The troops, among the approximately 350 mobilized to state active duty in March after Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency March 12, began training to establish mobile testing sites for specimen collection over the past two weeks. The group consists of Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Whitewater-based 457th Chemical Company, the Waukesha-based 135th Medical Company, and the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing in Madison.
The Wisconsin National Guard established drive-thru specimen collection for facility staff before moving inside to collect samples from residents in support of the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.
Local health officials identified an outbreak at the facility over the course of the past week, prompting a coordinated response from the local to the state level.
“Testing like this is prioritized from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and really what we’re trying to do is stop further spread of outbreaks of CVOID-19 within this facility,” Libby Jacobs, with the Sheboygan County Department of Health and Human Services, said. “Having testing of both staff and residents will help us quantify and reduce further spread of COVID-19 in both the staff, residents, and within the community.”
“The National Guard is coming in and helping us with the manpower, with both medics as well as decontamination,” Jacobs added. “They’re staffed to help provide that testing and the coordination related to getting all of these residents and staff tested, as well as collecting specimens in a timely manner.”
Spc. Jordan Beck, a medic assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery was honored to assist with the specimen collection process in Sheboygan County.
“We have a joint task force comprised of the Army National Guard, Air National Guard and civilian entities such as county and state resources,” Beck said. “The objective is to collaborate together and overall help as many patients as possible.
“This is providing resources to people who don’t have these resources or people who would not be able to regularly afford these resources,” he said.
The Guard’s specimen collection mission in Sheboygan represents the latest in the Wisconsin National Guard’s ongoing role in support of the state’s response to COVID-19. Wisconsin National Guard troops are currently helping staff two state-run voluntary self-isolation facilities in Milwaukee and Madison and another Milwaukee-run facility with medics providing medical monitoring as well as administrative support. Approximately 12 personnel are staffing each state-run facility, while nearly 30 are assisting at the Milwaukee-run facility.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard is actively supporting the Wisconsin Elections Commission in multiple ways. The Guard is assisting WEC by procuring and distributing supplies such as wipes, hand sanitizer, and spray bottles to polling sites needed to ensure a safe and sanitary election April 7, and a still yet-to-be determined number of National Guard troops are in the process of mobilizing to state active duty to serve as poll workers in the face of a shortage of volunteers across the state.
Wisconsin National Guard troops are simultaneously conducting warehousing operations in support of Wisconsin DHS where they are receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) shipments at warehouses, repackaging it, and then distributing it to sites that need PPE.
A team of six Wisconsin National Guard medics also augmented the staff at a senior living facility in Grafton, Wisconsin, for three days in March while the facility dealt with a staffing shortfall after a COVID-19 outbreak there.
Also last month, a team of 30 Wisconsin National Guard personnel assisted the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) transport a group of Wisconsin citizens back to their homes after they returned to our state from a cruise ship that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard.
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Note to news directors and editors: Out of respect for the safety of the general public and the privacy of staff and residents at Sunny Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health and the Wisconsin National Guard respectfully request that media and the general public not attempt to enter the facility’s grounds during specimen collection April 5. For questions specific to the Wisconsin National Guard, please contact Capt. Joe Trovato at 608-242-3048. For questions about the facility or Sheboygan County’s response, please contact Libby Jacobs with the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health at 920-226-2200. The Wisconsin National Guard is working to collect images and b-roll of the specimen collection process and will release that content as soon as it is available.