Texas National Guard supporting state's fight against COVID-19

khou.com

Soldiers have been assisting at testing sites, distributing 7 million units of PPE and 13 million meals at statewide food banks.

HOUSTON — Texans are seeing Texas Army National Guard soldiers across the state, including at dozens of COVID-19 testing sites.

Where to get tested and how it works remain top questions for many of you. 

A KHOU 11 team was allowed to get a closer look at a drive-through facility set up in the parking lot of the Delmar-Tusa Sports Complex in Houston where the National Guard is helping with traffic control and COVID-19 testing.

“Our biggest resource, I feel, has always been the soldier in uniform,” said Rodrigo R. Gonzalez, commander of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat team, headquartered in Houston. “They understand their mission is to serve whenever we have an emergency that the governor or the president deems necessary for us to assist.” 

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the 3,059 Guard members from the Texas Military Department last month.

They’re not only assisting with testing, they’ve distributed close to 7 million units of personal protective equipment and have helped several food banks.

“I believe we’re up to about 13 million meals the Texas Military Department has helped in distributing throughout Texas just in response to COVID,” Gonzalez said.

The Texas National Guard is helping the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) operate dozens of state-run testing locations across the state.

To find one near you, click on this link and go to “Texas COVID-19 test collection sites” button. It should take you to an interactive map where you can pick a location based on where you live.

TDEM told KHOU 11 when you click on the site location, it will give you information on-site testing requirements, or give you contact information to reach the site for more details.

You’ll see some COVID-19 test collection sites are either marked “open” or “coming soon.”

Those are done in partnership with TDEM, Texas Military Department, Texas Department of State Health Services – Emergency Medical Task Force and Texas A&M AgriLife, with support from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Those drive-through and test locations are free. To register for a test, some sites require 72-hour advance, most 48, according to the Division of Emergency Management.

Visit txcovidtest.org or call 512-883-2400. You will be asked screening questions when registering.

TDEM says the tests collected at those locations are taken to a public university health lab for testing.

Health officials tell KHOU 11 the test results are coming back in 3 to 5 days.

TDEM tells KHOU 11 the state has eight teams across the state operating testing sites, and eight more teams are expected to complete training by end of the week. TDEM says the goal is to have 25 teams operating across the state.

As of Tuesday, 75 counties have been served by the mobile test collection sites and 4,804 tests collected, according to TDEM.

Gonzalez says his team is ready and happy to serve, there’s just one thing they miss during the pandemic.

“Obviously, our soldiers loved to interact with the citizens that are out there there's,” he said. “No shaking hands [now], you know, people want to come up and thank them for what they're doing. Just know that we're here, we're available and we're ready to serve at this time.”

Gonzalez told KHOU 11 his teams had enough personal protective equipment and soldiers’ temperatures were measured every day to make sure they’re healthy.

“Definitely safety of all the personnel working there as well as the people coming to the sites is of utmost priority,” he said.


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