CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were activated this month to support the state's COVID-19 response once again.
As coronavirus cases in Minnesota continue to overwhelm hospitals struggling with staffing, Gov. Tim Walz announced Nov. 2 that the state would open its first alternate care site.
Benedictine St. Gertrude's in Shakopee is a senior care facility supporting the overflow of COVID-19 patients. It can accept up to 30 patients and will employ nurses from the Minnesota Department of Health and recently activated members of the Minnesota National Guard to serve as temporary nursing assistants.
"The Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are highly trained and ready for this mission to support the citizens of Minnesota," said Army Lt. Col. Brian Douty, the Guard's officer in charge of this mission.
Last year, more than 400 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were activated to support care facilities and hospitals as the number of people with COVID-19 increased. This time, Guard members will support nasal swab and saliva community testing sites and staff long-term care facilities.
"In our continued partnership with the Department of Health, we know that the size of our classrooms, the experience of our Guard members, and our Medical Unit Training Facility were ready and energized the moment we were called to support the temporary care facilities," said Army Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, Camp Ripley's senior commander and assistant adjutant general - Army for the Minnesota National Guard.
Minnesota National Guard medical personnel are training Soldiers and Airmen at Camp Ripley as temporary nursing aides, validated by Minnesota Department of Health professionals.
"Camp Ripley's facilities are well-suited to this type of training, and we are always ready to support the state of Minnesota's Guard members," Kruse said.
Minnesota is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, with almost 1,000 patients infected with coronavirus in state hospitals.
"This is a smaller group (of Guard members), but just like last year, everyone has a positive attitude and is very receptive to the tasks at hand," said Shannon Christensen of the Minnesota Health Department. "The professionalism of the Minnesota National Guard is just one of the reasons why this is such a great partnership."