Louisiana National Guard providing support during COVID-19 outbreak
The Louisiana National Guard has activated over 238 soldiers and airmen in addition to the full-time guardsmen to assist with the COVID-19 response.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the activation Thursday afternoon during a press conference to discuss coronavirus health concerns, saying, "My request to the president has to do with how it (the guard) is funded."
"We are able to use The National Guard as we need to right now, and in fact, we are employing a little over 400 National Guardsmen. I think it's 389 that are on state active duty for this particular event presently and we can ramp that up considerably," Gov. Edwards said.
Edwards explains they would rather fund the Guard under title 32, funding from the federal government, as it is "easier from a funding standpoint," which is what he asked the president to assist with before activating more guardsmen.
The soldiers and airmen were stationed at three sites in Jefferson Parish and New Orleans to assist local agencies with COVID-19 testing. The drive-up testing stations are expected to be functional within the next few days as testing kits and protective equipment are delivered.
"They (the Guardsmen) are providing security at our shelter sites where we have people in isolation or quarantine depending on if they are positive or not," Edwards said during the press conference.
“When these Soldiers come here, they’re mission-oriented. Sometimes it’s a little difficult, even within your own city government, to understand that when we get into these situations, you just have to roll and keep going until it’s over. That’s what they do. When you give them a mission, like we’ve given them a mission to assist us at these pods, they get it done," said New Orleans Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Collin Arnold.
The National Guard is providing medical support, engineering assessment support, shelter security, traffic control point and drive-through testing site support, and they are providing liaison officer teams to Parish Emergency Operations Centers.
“Aside from our Guardsmen already responding, we are continuing to lean forward and plan for possible follow-on missions that we may be called upon to perform,” said Brig. Gen. D. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of the Guard.
“As our missions develop and increase, today’s preparations will lead to tomorrow’s success.”
In order to assist civil authorities, the Louisiana National Guard is ensuring the health and safety of its Soldiers and Airmen. According to a news release, the Guard is actively taking steps to support health protection in order to maintain mission readiness, such as: limiting non-mission-specific travel, educating and enforcing strict CDC-recommended hygiene measures, and monitoring Guardsmen’s temperature readings and overall health on a daily basis.