(04/02/2020)
It's been slow coming, but the West Virginia National Guard, DHHR and Department of Homeland Security have teamed up to help send essential items to those in need.

States, counties and cities have led the procurement during the past weeks, sometimes bidding for the special items with the federal government.

Dr. Sherri Young with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department expects to see a peak in two to four weeks … but the state’s supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, right now will barely make it halfway to that point.

Many of the state's ambulance responders have had difficulty with supplies.

“They have a week maybe two weeks of supplies going into what is going to be a terrible epidemic and it is going to get much worse as we go forward,” Young says.

Masks, gloves, gowns, respirators and more are going out to health departments in all 55 counties in the state. The operation has been underway at a state distribution center in Poca.

"We basically then pack the boxes up, prioritize them out, based on distance to counties, and get them on the road as fast as we can," Sgt. Maj. David Lucas said.

Men and women are spending hours filling boxes and packing between 13-19 trucks each day.

The National Guard is also bottling hand sanitizer, which will be distributed where its needed.

"We have soldiers here from all 55 counties in West Virginia working at the warehouse,” Master Sgt. Ryan Powers said. “This is one of their many duties we have here, to take care of the state of West Virginia in this time of need."

There's more than 70 members of the National Guard in the warehouse and nearby work stations.

"As a soldier in the West Virginia National Guard, we have that dual purpose where we have a federal mission and a state mission. Lucas said. "Often times we don't get that state mission unless it's an emergency."

They are also conducting food distribution. It's a labor of love these men and women say they are happy to do.

"Just being a small piece of it is very rewarding in those aspects, that we can give back today, and hopefully tomorrow," Lucas said.

It's not clear yet when this work will no longer be needed, but they said they will continue to be there until the need disappears.


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