By Jack Brammer
The Kentucky National Guard is “100 percent ready” to provide assistance to hospitals as Gov. Andy Beshear has mentioned or “any other assigned task” to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, no state Guard units have been sent to any community to assist in dealing with the virus, “but we anticipate seeing requests from them by Friday, maybe this weekend,” said Maj. Stephen Martin, director of public affairs for the state Guard. He added, “There’s nothing official on that yet, but we are ready.”
Martin said the Guard’s role at hospitals likely “will be one of administrative and logistics instead of security.”
“They could redirect the flow of traffic at hospitals, make deliveries of supplies, try to keep things moving, things of that nature,” he said.
Beshear said Monday the state Guard may be posted at hospitals throughout the state if cases of COVID-19 continue to surge. He activated the Guard when he declared a state of emergency once Kentucky reported its first case of the virus.
“As we believe that cases are going to ramp up, we’re going to take some security measures around our Kentucky hospitals just to make sure everything is orderly and make sure that everybody in there, from the practitioners to the patients, are safe,” Beshear said.
The state Guard is made up of the Kentucky Army National Guard and Kentucky Air National Guard. It has about 7,500 members.
In recent days, the Guard has reviewed what members would be available to assist with COVID-19 work and has found that about 1,000 would not be available.
“We have checked them on such things as whether they are primarily responsible for any elderly people and identified among them who would be first responders like doctors and others. We do not want to pull them in and any other who might be vulnerable to such tasks,” said Martin.
“Regardless, we feel that we have a robust force ready to be used,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, Kentucky’s Adjutant General, said the Guard is doing its best to protect the health of its members.
“Right now, we are taking the appropriate measures to mitigate the spread of this virus following the directives from both the president and governor and will ensure we have a healthy force for the continuity of our mission,” Lamberton said.
All the Guard members are trying to work at a distance from each other, Martin said.
“We want to make sure our Guard members have the protective gear if they are working in certain areas,” he said.
Since last week, there have been about 40 Army and Air Guard members working at the Joint Operations Center at the Boone Center in Frankfort with Kentucky Emergency Management.
“They have been figuring out where best to serve and identifying several projects needed to be done,” said Martin.
About 10 Guard members also have been involved at the center’s warehouse and another location in Frankfort, handling personal protective equipment for first responders, said Martin.
He also said two or three members are working with Louisville Emergency Management and one is in coordination with the state Department of Public Health.