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La. National Guard soldiers ready to ramp up PPE warehouses amid case surge

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BATON ROUGE - Over 300 soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard have worked non-stop in the capital city since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re tasked with running two separate PPE warehouse facilities 24/7.

In nearly four months, those soldiers have received and shipped over 40,000,000 individual items of PPE including ventilators, masks, gloves, and sanitizers. Now, they’re making sure that the shelves are stocked as the state continues to see an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“With the given situation that’s going on, you never know when something is going to pop up,” Major Jessica Lacoste said.

Adjusting and adapting to the state’s coronavirus-related needs is something that Lacoste and her colleagues have gotten used to since April.

“Even when the demand seemed to reduced slightly, we did not reduce our footprint of soldiers because there’s no way for us to project when the need may arise,” Colonel Willus Hall said.

When hospitals and other agencies need supplies, they send an order request through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Lacoste says those orders often need to be complete within a day’s notice or even sooner.

“So, sometimes, we’ll make stuff on the fly. We’ll get things within maybe a two-hour notice saying ‘hey look we need to execute this mission,’” Lacoste said.

Right now, pre-staging is the name of the game for these soldiers. And Hall says that “our state has done a wonderful job order ample supplies.”

Those supplies include ventilators and other medical devices that were once in critical demand. The recent surge in COVID cases in Louisiana is bringing the need for those items to the forefront for state leaders once again.

That demand is putting pressure back on the hospital systems.

“As we see a rise in the cases around the state what we’re doing is we’re making sure that we are preparing our soldiers to be vigilant, to be ready and to get all of the equipment that we have shipped out and stocked on hand. So that whenever those requests come out, we won’t have to wait until the last minute to get them,” Lacoste said.

Soldiers like Lacoste say they take extreme pride in what they’re doing inside and outside their temporary facilities, knowing that the supplies could potentially help to save someone’s life.

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