Utah National Guard extends COVID-19 support amid surge
TOOELE, Utah — With this summer’s rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the delta variant, the Utah National Guard will keep 100 service members on its COVID-19 Response Task Force through mid-December.
Due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, most county health departments across Utah are testing more people for COVID-19 and giving more shots. Members of the Utah National Guard will continue to be critical in those duties.
“That’s the reason why I joined the National Guard in the first place: I always wanted to help my community,” said Spc. Brayden Borders.
He is helping as a vaccinator at the Tooele County Health Department. It’s his first mission — his first deployment, right where he grew up.
“It’s definitely a very amazing opportunity to give back to my community that I’ve grown up in,” Borders said.
He’s using his skill set as a combat medic to help vaccinate his hometown, and that means a lot to him.
“I’ve given a lot of vaccinations to people I’ve known my entire life,” he said. “It’s really cool to get to show them that this is what I do for the military, and I’m able to give back to them and also help them.”
The Utah National Guard has activated more than 630 soldiers and airmen over the past 18 months and originally thought that work would be done by now. But, due to the recent surge in cases and an uptick in vaccinations, the orders have been extended to Dec. 17.
“It has been very busy,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Curtis, who has been working alongside Borders in Tooele since the beginning of the summer. Vaccinations have picked up in recent weeks.
“The numbers have risen in the last couple of weeks where we’re doing over 100. We did 135 on Monday,” said Curtis.
Curtis deployed to Afghanistan earlier in his career and said this is unlike any other mission. He believes he’s making a difference in a different way than his past combat deployments.
“I feel like we have a better chance at licking this thing if we have enough people vaccinated,” Curtis said.
Throughout the pandemic service members assigned to the task force have administered COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, conducted contact tracing, provided support to long-term care facilities and administered antibody infusions to treat COVID-19.
“COVID is not going away anytime soon,” Borders said. “It’s just getting worse the more we go on with things. So we knew at any time that the mission could get extended.”
For the next three months, national guardsmen will be working with health departments in Utah doing what they can to fight the virus.
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