Idaho National Guard wraps up coronavirus pandemic support missions

Sgt. Eli Morgan and other Idaho National Guard members assisted employees from the Idaho Foodbank and volunteers from Idaho’s Dairy West at the Boise Centre to build food boxes for Idaho students in need on April 8, 2020. The call for the Idaho National Guard came through the Idaho Office of Emergency Management from the Idaho Foodbank to help with a shortage of support during the pandemic.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

While the Idaho National Guard was recently activated to assist with emergency wildfires in the state, the Guard has spent the past eight months helping health care providers in the pandemic.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management reported that most of the Guard’s missions were “personnel support” where Guard members helped public health districts, foodbanks, and healthcare facilities. The support ranged from language translation to vaccine administration. 

Like most emergencies, the Guard was called when the environment was at its worst. On Nov. 13, 2020, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order mobilizing the Idaho National Guard to expand capacity within Idaho’s medical and long-term facilities. At the time, coronavirus infection rates soared through Idaho.

The Guard established “Joint Task Force-Agile Response” to support the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. More than 400 citizen-soldiers and airmen volunteered to serve on the task force, which completed more than 70 mission assignments, according to Janice Witherspoon of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management.

The response team provided COVID-19 response support for eight months, ending their missions on July 9. In total, 438 Guard members volunteered for the missions. 

Collectively, the Guard administrated or supported more than 225,000 vaccinations, and provided assistance to all seven public health districts and three Idaho tribes. Members also supported 30 long-term care and assisted living facilities.

Guard members also assisted with vaccinations at the Idaho Department of Correction prisons, including facilities that struggled with high infection rates during the pandemic.

As of June 30, they reportedly had administered more than 47,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, supported more than 180,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, and delivered more than 110,000 vaccinations to medical facilities.

“The Idaho National Guard has played a critical role in saving lives and reducing the impact of COVID-19 on Idaho citizens,” Little said in June. “The Guard’s support was truly a gamechanger in the darkest months of our pandemic fight. As a result of the Guard’s efforts, and the efforts of all our frontline and healthcare workers, Idaho has remained one of the most open states throughout the global pandemic.”

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