By 1st Lt. Cody Stagner, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Three months after the novel coronavirus outbreak hit the bluegrass state, Kentucky National Guard continues support at four COVID-19 Drive-Thru Test Sites (DTTS) in as many cities, including Bowling Green, Louisville, Shelbyville, and Lexington.
In addition to the four COVID-19 testing sites, the Kentucky National Guard still provides Soldiers and Airmen at three call centers, two food banks, a warehouse storing personal protective equipment, election support at numerous locations, and other personnel providing mandatory temperature scans at security checkpoints for two different sites.
The Guard has been answering the call with more than 240 troops on orders each day throughout the pandemic. The Guard peaked at over 800 Guardsmen on orders providing support early on to meet the needs of the commonwealth.
Supporting free COVID-19 testing is the largest operation. Since the shut down and testing began, the state has set up at 18 unique locations.
The newly opened DTTS in Shelbyville, Ky., as with most others, will stay open for only a few days before the team moves to another location, next week. This, according to 1st Sgt. Dylan Molohon, non-commissioned officer in charge at the Shelbyville site, has been a challenging part of this mission.
In Shelbyville, the test site functions as a collaboration between the Guard, Kentucky State Police, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, and Kroger Little Clinic.
“Here, the state police set up the site with local law enforcement, prior to us arriving,” said Molohon. “Then, we work together as a team to provide this service to the community. The state police provides law enforcement, local sheriffs provide access to emergency management, and Guardsmen control traffic in and out of the facility. Of course, the Kroger Little Clinic provides testing supplies, administrators and nurses to facilitate all COVID-19 testing.”
According to Molohon, the total staff could be 40-45 personnel, including the 15-18 Guardsmen.
“At each site, we are fortunate to have the pleasure of working with and learning from many professionals coming from different organizations,” said Molohon, also the 1st Sgt for the 751st Troop Command. “But, this also creates a challenge as we move around [to new sites]; because new faces bring new strategies for how we run our mission.”
Molohon attributes flexibility, adaptability and personal experience as the greatest factors to the success of his team, which has been working together since March. This is their fifth DTTS location.
From March through April, various weather conditions also tested their resilience. Social distancing prohibited Guardsmen from seeking cover within the Kroger tents, so they made it a standard to set up their own tent for shielding from the wind and the rain, or even the sun.
“As an always ready force, we always bring the right gear,” said Molohon.
Even though the locations, the scenery and the management might change, members of the public going through the process at any site may have a similar experience.
In Shelbyville, tests will only be administered to persons remaining in their own car seat, so all administrative tasks must also be complete while individuals drive through each station.
What can I expect at this test site? Upon first entering the Shelbyville site, a Soldier wearing a face mask may ask you to keep your window rolled up while he instructs you to drive along the path of orange traffic cones and on to the check-in station. With your window barely rolled down at check-in, a nurse—wearing face mask, face shield, and gloves—will verify your identity and log you into the Kroger Little Clinic tracking system. If you are a walk-in, he or she takes your name and asks you to register at the next stop.
After checking in, a team of Soldiers directs you further along the path, continually monitoring testing lines for compliance with social distancing, minimizing exposure and spreading of the novel virus, and helping to protect the privacy of each citizen.
The driving lane then splits into three parallel lanes; each lane has its own registration and testing tent.
In Shelbyville, the option to provide three lanes allows them to simultaneously administer multiple tests and collect more than 400 COVID-19 tests each day.
During the test, itself, a nurse will hand you a sterile cotton swab and test tube. He or she then asks you to roll the window all the way up and listen to all instructions for collecting your own test specimen.
The testing process is simple, but slightly invasive. To get a good specimen, one must insert the cotton swab approximately two inches deep into the nasal cavity and hold for fifteen seconds at each nostril. The swab must then be carefully placed into the test-tube container and the container handed back to the nurse at that station. Done.
There are no long-lasting side effects, but a person may experience temporary discomfort and a stinging sensation that could also lead to watery eyes and a runny nose.
Results of the test take 48-72 hours. If your results are COVID-19 positive, you will receive a courtesy call from a specialist that will walk you through the steps taken to minimize spreading the virus and begin treatment. If the result is negative, you only receive the results in a message sent to the email address you provided.
“Knowing about the process is important to understand and minimize the spread of fear at the test site or within the community,” said 1st Sgt. Molohon. “Our Soldiers are there to help and must be ready to answer questions if needed.”
Spc. Robert Acosta, a musician assigned to 202nd Army Band, took pride in his mission and the opportunity to serve a community close to home.
“The reason I joined was to serve the community,” said Acosta, while directing cars through the testing site. “I live in Louisville and drill in Frankfort, so this is the first time I have been able to serve this close to home. I never thought I would be working like this during a pandemic. It has been an eye-opening experience.”