LATHAM, New York -- The New York National Guard was among the first states to call up Soldiers and Airmen for the COVID-19 pandemic on March 10, and ten months later, on December 17, it was one of two Guard forces to begin administering a COVID-19 vaccine to its troops.
Since the first 300 Soldiers and Airmen mobilized to help contain a coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York has seen 5,066 Soldiers and Airmen, along with members of the New York Guard and New York Naval Militia, employed as part of the mission.
At the peak of mobilization in April, 3,646 personnel were on duty responding to COVID-19. Currently there are 1,682 personnel on duty for Operation COVID-19.
There are 17,000 Soldiers and Airmen in the New York National Guard and another 3,000 members of the New York Naval Militia and New York Guard, the state's emergency response force.
Missions given to the New York National Guard expanded from initially assisting in school lunch distribution to families after schools shut down in New Rochelle to a larger scale effort: cleaning public areas; supporting large-scale food distribution sites; creating and administering alternative care facilities, including the Javits Convention Center which treated 1,095 COVID-19 patients and even assisting New York City in moving the bodies of deceased citizens.
Ongoing key missions for the New York National Guard include assisting at 15 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites located from Long Island to Buffalo, assembling COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health, and screening out-of-state and international passengers arriving at 12 airports across the state.
New York National Guard personnel are also continuing access control missions at five alternative care facilities in downstate New York which can be opened if required, and assisting in warehouse operations at seven locations.
A number of missions, to include the delivery of hand sanitizer, the recovery of human remains, and working at state call centers were all completed following the peak of hospitalizations in the state earlier in the year.
The New York National Guard received 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as part of a Department of Defense vaccine administration test of 44,000 vaccine doses administered worldwide. The Indiana National Guard also took part in this test program.
The vaccine was received on December 16 and was administered from December 17 to 20. Priority for vaccination went to Soldiers and Airmen working in healthcare or on the COVID-19 task force.
Since March, New York National Guard personnel have assisted in collecting 1,062,535 COVID-19 tests at drive-thru testing stations. The facilities are located in major population centers. Testing is scheduled by the New York State Department of Health and is free.
Soldiers and Airmen have also assisted the Department of Health to assemble 5,413,913 COVID-19 test kits.
In October, the state tasked the New York National Guard with collecting health forms in support of the New York State Department of Health from travelers arriving from outside New York State. The missions started at larger airports like LaGuardia and JFK International in New York City but now includes smaller airports like those in Ithaca and Plattsburgh.
Since the start of that mission, screening forms have been collected by 1,058,279 passengers at 12 airports.
Other ongoing missions include working as needed at seven state warehouses where pandemic and medical supplies are received and distributed.
Since the start of the mission 52,637 pallets of supplies have been received and 23,990 have been distributed.
Alternative care facility locations being monitored by New York National Guard personnel are in White Plains in Westchester County; South Beach, Staten Island; Stony Brook and North Hempstead on Long Island; and the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
Javits was set up by the New York National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers in March and provided care to 1,095 COVID-19 patents before the final patient was discharged on May 1.
The New York National Guard’s two Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams, the 2nd and the 24th CSTs, are also providing mobile COVID-19 testing as required. Since the start of the mission they have administered 6,607 tests.
Members of the COVID-19 task force have also been tasked with assisting the New York State Department of Health to assemble vaccine administration stations, or pods, which will be used to administer vaccines to the general public.
Completed missions include:
- Assisting at antibody testing sites: 14,269 tests collected
- Nursing Home on-site testing: 2,179 tests completed
- Decedent recovery: 2,882 sets of remains collected in New York City, Long Island and Westchester
- Hand sanitizer distribution: 112,707 gallons of New York State Clean hand sanitizer distributed
- Call Center Support: 278,162 calls fielded
- Food Preparation: 444,987 meals prepared
- Food distribution: 54,899,025 meals distributed
- Mask Fit Testing: 1,889 personnel fit-tested for N-95 masks
- Facility Cleaning: 907,000 square feet cleaned at 22 locations
New York Air National Guard Para Rescue Jumpers from the 106th Rescue Wing also provided medical support to patients at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens during the worst weeks of hospitalizations in the spring, monitoring ventilators and “proning” patients by turning them on their sides and front to help them breath.