The number of Guard troops mobilized in the effort to cope with the coronavirus pandemic continues to increase.
There are more than 38,700 Air and Army National Guard professionals supporting the COVID-19 crisis response at the direction of their governors as of Tuesday afternoon. That’s an increase of about 2,000 from Monday.
In addition, 39 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have now been approved for use of federal funds for state missions under Title 32.
As of Tuesday morning, 682 Guard troops had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures provided by the Pentagon. That was an increase of 10 from Monday.
Of those troops activated in the COVID-19 response, 28,700 are currently under orders authorized for Title 32 502(f) status, said Army Master Sgt. W. Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau.
“As states amend orders and issue new ones based on their needs this number will keep moving,” he told Military Times. "Also based on response needs, as determined at the state level, some orders may remain under state active duty."
The status, ordered by President Donald Trump, means the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the cost, with control remaining in the hands of governors. It also means that those troops — risking thier health and that of their families by being on the front lines of the coronavirus fight — receive healthcare and increased housing allowance equal to active duty and reserve troops doing the same work.
There was an initial catch. Only troops on 31-day orders were eligible for the increased benefits. That problem, however, was since fixed by Trump and now states are going through the process of either initiating or amending those orders to meet the 31-day requirement for increased troop benefits.
But there are also about 10,000 Guard troops on State Activated Duty who are not receiving increased benefits.
National Guard officials highlighted some of their efforts:
When Colorado National Guard airmen realized there was a need, they jumped to help and agreed to manufacture 500 masks for the community. The team had to source material from around the country to meet the requirements, and began working in two-person teams to cut, assemble and sew the masks together
“We recognize that sewing is a critical skill in the current pandemic where masks are in high demand and short supply, and we could help!” Air Force Master Sgt. Jared McCartney explained. “Of course, we have to have a plan that minimizes our own exposure and maintains social distancing.”
The Michigan National Guard is helping organize and distribute critical medical supplies to medical facilities throughout the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal protective equipment has been dispatched from the national stockpile to Michigan.
“There is a lot of equipment that has been shipped in,” said Dr. Jerry Evans, medical director for Region 6 Healthcare Coalition and West Michigan Regional Medical Consortium. “We need to break that down, divide it up, and get it to the appropriate places at the appropriate times.”
Because of the high demand and large amount of PPE, the coalition acknowledged the importance of having the Guard to help
Current National Guard COVID-19 response missions include, but are not limited to:
*Full-time, 24-hour state Emergency Operations Center staffing to synchronize National Guard efforts with local and state mission partners to plan and execute an effective response;
*Flying ventilators and other critical equipment to support response efforts in other states;
*Providing mortuary affairs assistance as needed with dignity and respect;
*Providing time saving support to local law enforcement, freeing officers to perform their duty in the communities they serve;
*Conducting force health protection assessments to ensure our Guardsmen are taken care of;
*Manufacturing, sewing and distributing masks for mission essential personnel;
*Building and outfitting alternate care facilities to alleviate stress on medical infrastructure;
*Supporting warehouse operations and logistics efforts to help deliver and distribute lifesaving medical equipment and critical supplies;
*Delivering and distributing food in hard-hit communities and supporting food banks;
*Manning call centers to be a knowledgeable and calming voice;
*Providing vital personal protective equipment training and delivery to civilian first responders;
*Performing sample collection and delivery to medical personnel;
*Providing support and symptoms screening to testing facilities and passenger terminals;
*Providing transportation and assessment support to healthcare providers