Milwaukee, Wisconsin --
Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, are being activated to work at mobile testing and specimen collection sites in support of the battle against COVID-19 throughout Wisconsin starting May 1, 2020.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the launch of additional community testing events on May 1, 2020. The events will take place in areas with known lack of access to testing and areas where additional testing is needed because of high rates of COVID-19 incidents.
Since April 27, 2020 approximately 225 National Guard members have served across the state in testing and specimen collection sites. Many of these additional Airmen were previously tasked for other missions and are now currently in training to fulfill their new task of staffing these sites across the state.
Senior Airman Valarie Lopez, a public affairs administrative specialist with the 128 ARW, started her mobilization working at an alternate care facility at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis, but was reassigned for the mobile testing sites.
Lopez said that she will be receiving special training to prepare for her tasking along with 12 other people from the 128 ARW.
“It has been interesting to see the role the National Guard will play,” said Lopez. “We came thinking we would be CNA's and are now being trained in a different area. The ability to adapt and change has been a must.”
On April 9, Evers announced the development of an alternate care facility by the Army Corp of Engineers at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis and on April 11, he announced the development of a second alternate care facility at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The role of these alternate care facilities is to accommodate the overflow of low-acuity COVID-19 patients from hospitals and other care facilities if they exceed capacity.
Lopez explained her first role as certified nursing assistant while working at the Expo Center. “We [were trained to] fill basic CNA duties such as taking vitals, documenting, and helping patients out of bed.”
Since Evers declared a Public Health Emergency on March 12, communities have been experiencing additional strain on their public health systems. The state recognized a continuing need for assistance in many communities.
Tech. Sgt. Angel Belovarac, a cyber surety specialist with the 115th Fighter Wing, in Madison, was also trained to work as a CNA in the Expo Center before being tasked for a new assignment.
“Initially [we] helped fill the lack of nursing assistance that would be needed for patients getting over their COVID contraction,” said Belovarac. “Now I prep laptops and phones for use in the field for mostly testing stations.”
Wisconsin now has the ability to do approximately 11,000 tests a day and the National Guard is essential in ensuring those tests are being implemented.
The community event locations will continue to be announced in the coming days. Anyone with symptoms is urged to call their doctor or use a community testing site to get tested.
“This has been a great learning experience and I have met some great people,” said Belovarac.
Wisconsin’s goal is to test anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, conduct contact tracing, and quarantine those who have been exposed to stop the spread.
There are more than 1,000 Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard members currently serving in support of the state’s COVID-19 response.
Symptoms of COVD-19 include:
● Fever, defined as a measured temperature greater than 100.4°F
● Subjective fever, for example if a person feels unusually warm to the touch, or reports sensations similar to previous experiences of fever
● Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
● Sore throat
● Chills or rigors (repetitive shaking chills)
● Muscle aches (myalgia)
● New loss of taste or smell
For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage.
For up-to-date Governor Press Releases visit: https://evers.wi.gov/Pages/Newsroom/Press-Releases.aspx