Caring During Covid: National Guard assists Michigan’s Veterans Homes

Jan. 5, 2021 | By Webmaster
VIRIN: 210105-N-XZ300-0096

Michigan National Guard

Story by Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco

LANSING, Mich.-- Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan National Guard (MING) has had an extensive list of priorities in keeping their communities safe. High on that list is keeping veterans who call Michigan home safe and healthy. This meant providing assistance to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV) throughout the pandemic when needed.

In early December, members of the Michigan National Guard doubled down on their assistance to the home. They have been delivering some of the best tools available to test and measure the risk for COVID-19 among members and staff. Included in this, is providing daily antigen point of care testing to staff. This enhances the previous testing requirements, which was twice weekly polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for all staff and weekly polymerase chain reaction testing for members. 

“Providing our veterans the best care possible will always be our mission, and we are immensely grateful for our partnership with the Michigan National Guard as we combat this pandemic,” said Anne Zerbe, director of the Michigan Veterans Homes. “Part of our department’s commitment to help make Michigan the best place for veterans to live, work and raise a family is to consider each of them a member for life, with quality resources to turn to during each phase of their lives; that’s where the Homes come in.”

The guard will also recently begin providing this testing to the DJ Jacobetti Home for Veterans (DJJHV) in Marquette, Michigan. Staff will be tested in a drive-through style testing clinic and will then wait in their cars for test results. After receiving a negative test, they will receive a text message indicating they are cleared to enter the building. Following a positive test, they will be contacted by a contact tracer, instructed to return home to quarantine, and follow-up with a medical provider.  

“We are facilitating outdoor rapid COVID-19 testing on staff members reporting to work ensuring folks entering the facility have a negative COVID test,” said Capt. Andrew Pomorski, Air Platoon Covid Vaccine and Testing Team (CVTT) OIC. “The CVTTs are also providing PCR testing assistance to GRVH staff for the residents.”

While working, the teams adhere to CDC guidelines and other precautions to ensure both the safety of themselves and those being tested. 

“All CVTT members wear face coverings while on shift,” said Pomorski. “They also wear rubber latex gloves to limit physical skin contact with testing materials, forms, and staff members limiting a chance for COVID transmission.” 

Other screening precautions are still taking place, such as health screening questions and temperature checks. The teams are also scheduled to begin providing vaccinations at the GRHV Dec. 6, 2020.

The MING and Michigan Veterans Homes have a close relationship and are tied together because they fall under the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Michigan operates two homes for veterans:  the Grand Rapids home, constructed in 1885, and the Marquette home established in 1981. A new home is scheduled to open in Chesterfield Township in 2021.

“We are honored to be a part of a great effort working with the veterans home staff to ultimately keep staff members safe so they can provide great care to our veterans,” said Pomorski. “It is important we give back to the vets, because these men and women served our country.”