Utah National Guard Deployed For Critical COVID-19 Missions
Nov 10, 2020, 7:43 PM | Updated: 9:06 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah National Guard has been helping health officials with several missions critical to the state’s coronavirus efforts. They’ve been activated to assess the impact of the governor’s updated emergency order, but this deployment is very different than most others.
“We are here to help out as long as we’re needed,” said First Lieutenant Ryan Quinn, assigned to Joint Task Force 97 for the COVID-19 response.
Most members of the Guard probably did not join up because they wanted to help during a pandemic but that’s what several hundred have now volunteered to do, and they’re proud of the work they are doing.
KSL TV caught up with about a dozen members of the Guard Tuesday who were helping to operate a mobile COVID-19 testing site for the state department of health.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Colonel Tammy Manwaring, commander of the joint task force. “Our primary mission is to support our state. So, this is a unique opportunity that we’ve been allowed in standing up this task force. We feel privileged and honored to be helping our communities and helping its citizens.”
Since March, approximately 300 soldiers and airmen with Utah National Guard Joint Task Force 97 have volunteered to support the state and local health departments to slow the spread of COVID-19.
They’ve deployed at home to help the Utah Department of Health operate 25 mobile testing sites statewide.
“These are all volunteers,” said Manwaring. “This is considered a deployment.”
The work has become more critical as the coronavirus spreads. They were unsure of how the governor’s updated emergency order will impact their work.
“We’ve definitely gotten busier,” he said.
They have tested as many as 2,000 people a day at each site during the last week.
“(We’re) doing the best that we can to keep up with the COVID numbers,” said Manwaring.
Some Guard members said they feel fortunate to get the work because they lost civilian jobs during the pandemic, or they wanted more work.
“(It’s) an opportunity to serve their communities, but also to stay employed and really be deployed in their home state,” Manwaring said.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Quinn, who moved to the Beehive State from Colorado in 2019, and was changing civilian jobs when the opportunity arose.
“I volunteered to help out with that back in July, and have stayed on the task force and have been helping with the mobile testing team since then,” said Quinn.
He said it’s been a demanding year for the Guard, with several natural disasters that stretched their resources. He decided to step up.
“I live here in Salt Lake City. The fact that we’re able to help out our citizens and our neighbors, it’s a really unique and rewarding experience to help out and serve those close to home,” said Quinn.
The testing and contact tracing were the Guard’s biggest missions so far. Approximately 100 members were contact tracing on the phones from home, but other teams do COVID-19 assessments in long-term care facilities, and work at a warehouse managing PPE for the state.
“We are here to enhance capabilities, and fill gaps for the state,” said Colonel Manwaring.