LACY, Wash. – With the number of positive COVID-19 cases still rising, hospitals – especially those in smaller, rural areas – run the risk of running out of bed space, reducing a community’s ability to keep those who are sick separated from the general population.“Our goal is to help isolate people who are sick or may have been exposed to the disease,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Simpson, operations chief for the Guard as part of Team Med Surge. “Setting up a facility, this is a proof of concept that we can set up a surge capacity within 48 hours to provide additional space to those areas that need it.”Created at the end of March, Team Med Surge, a mix of personnel from the Washington National Guard and the departments of Health, Ecology and Transportation, developed a 30-40 bed isolation facility to help support local health jurisdictions respond to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.The concept for the medical surge facilities began at the beginning of the pandemic while the team supported multiple other missions, including moving hospital beds and ventilation systems. In July, the team finally had the chance to test its ability to set up the isolation facility at the Olympia Armory and St. Martin’s College in Lacey.“The team medical surge was in a crawl, walk, run process since this is a new concept for the Department of Health,” said Simpson. “The team started with the crawl phase setting up at the Olympia Armory, then set up at St. Martin’s to show the public the proof of concept. At the end of July, the team will set up the system in Ellensburg at the fairgrounds.”For Matt Simons, the branch director for the medical surge team who works for the division of medical response at the Department of Health, the concept is important, but so is the approach.“At St. Martin’s, we wanted to showcase the capability to multiple county health officials,” Simons said. “But when we go to Ellensburg, we will be treating it like a real deployment from getting a call from the county, load up and report all movements, set up and be ready to support.”The concept for the isolation facility seems very simple. Members of Team Med Surge arrive, look at the location, and set up an empty area into a medical facility ready for use in just over two hours.It’s much more complicated than it sounds.“We have worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looking at everything from HVAC to the flow of the building, to identify the best spaces for staff,” said Simons. “Gyms or armories are a great spot. They have showers and a big drill space. In small towns, the high schools would work.”While it’s a joint venture, Simons doesn’t underplay the importance of the Guard in Team Med Surge’s role during the COVID-19 response.“The National Guard has been critical for Team Med Surge. They have been instrumental in the staffing and planning for the team, more than half of the members are National Guard,” said Simons. “They have been instrumental in the other mission of meeting with the local areas, getting us around quickly and helping with those meetings. We couldn’t have done it without them.”Related LinksU.S. Army COVID-19 Worldwide NewsFor more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDCU.S. responseWhite House-CDC response