Michigan National Guard provides testing for MDOC

Spc. Nicholas Rittler, 126th Infantry Regiment medic, hands off a Covid sample during a Covid testing event to Private 1st. Class Silvester Hughes, a covid team administrative troop assigned to the 156th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Sept. 23, 2020, at Ionia, Mich. The Michigan Army and Air National Guard have established an extensive Covid testing program for prisons located across the state. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

Story by Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco

Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich.– As the fight against Covid-19 continues on, so does the partnership between the Michigan National Guard and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The Michigan Army and Air National Guard has established an extensive Covid testing program for prisons located across the state.

“We are testing staff because they have to be tested on a weekly basis,” said Spc. Bethany Gurnee, a testing team leader assigned to the 46th Military Police Company. Instead of them having to go out on their own time they can get it done at their work.”

The partnership with the MDOC is one of the ways the Guard is working to ensure the health and safety of all of Michigan’s residents.

“We are also testing inmates because they want to identify positive cases and this is one way for them to do so,” said Gurnee. “Outside of this we do community based [public] testing, which is free, and then we do long-term care testing as well.”

According to the MDOC, as of Oct. 6, there have been a total of 98,184 inmate and 16,500 staff tests.

“Testing is crucial in helping us in our fight against this virus,” said Chris Gautz, MDOC spokesman. “Knowing when and where we have positive cases allows us to move quickly to stop further spread by cohorting prisoners and keeping the rest of the population, and our staff safe.”

The medics responsible for the testing have strict safety measures including personal protective equipment, sanitization, and proper disposal methods. Spc. Nicholas Rittler, 126th Infantry Regiment medic, says these protocols help ensure the safety for both the medics and those being tested.

Gurnee has been on the testing teams since the beginning of the pandemic. She said the Guard went through all of the correctional facilities in May.

“The testing is important because people want to know if they have [covid] and it can help protect other people,” said Gurnee. “With the prisons, if inmates are testing positive they can separate them from the rest.”

As the battle against Covid continues, the Guard’s mission is to do everything possible to promote the well being of Michigan residents. The partnership with the MDOC is an important part of said mission.

“We simply would not be able to do this level of testing without the Guard. This assistance has been invaluable,” said Gautz. “This partnership has gone incredibly well from the very beginning. We could not be happier with the assistance we have been provided. The professionalism and positive attitude among the Guard has been amazing.”

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