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National Guardsmen deliver PPE

Michigan National Guardsmen Sgt. Adam Szabo (left) and Spc. Domenic Nettell delivered personal protective equipment to Iron County last week.

CRYSTAL FALLS — The Michigan National Guard is helping to distribute personal protection equipment (PPE) to counties around the U.P.
    According to www.army.mil, six soldiers in teams of two make supply runs from a distribution hub in Greenland (Ontonagon County). The teams deliver supplies to the western, central and western U.P.
    Sgt. Adam Szabo and Spc. Domenic Nettell delivered PPE to Iron County last week.
    Iron County Emergency Manager Vernon Jones said the National Guardsmen are a critical part of the COVID-19 response in Iron County and throughout the U.P.
    “A large part of the response to this virus is protection from the highly contagious nature of it,” Jones said. “We know that it is quickly spread from person to person by water droplets. If a person sneezes, coughs or talks, the possibility of droplets becoming airborne is possible. These droplets of water containing the virus can be inhaled by individuals or land on hard surfaces where the virus can survive for a lengthy period of time.
    “To protect us from contamination we must utilize various forms of PPE. Masks, gloves, goggles, and hand sanitizer are just a few forms of PPE that we have now all become so familiar with of late.”   
    Jones said a massive undertaking is taking place in the U.S. to get PPE to where it is needed the most – health care workers and first responders.
    Szabo spoke similarly in an article written for www.army/mil.
    “I think it’s important because we’re always here,” Szabo said. “We’re always ready to answer the call and assist the first responders and local volunteers. We’re there to help with these efforts.”
    Jones said “all areas of government” were caught unprepared by the rapid spread of the virus.
    “Each level of government assumed that there was a cache of PPE that could be quickly supplied. Quickly it became apparent that there was only a limited supply of PPE available. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State Emergency Operations Centers (SEOC) around the county and the Local Emergency Managers (LEM) began to scramble to try and help. Hospitals and long-term care centers were in desperate need of supplies, but no entity had prepared for the ‘unthinkable pandemic.’”
    Three distribution hubs have been established in the U.P. - Ontonagon (west) Marquette (central) and Chippewa (east).
    PPE continues to be shipped into these hubs and is then distributed to the counties by the Guardsmen.
    “This has allowed the local EMs to be more productive during this crisis.” Jones said. “We still are lacking PPE in the U.P but are hopeful that the quantity will soon pick up. Naturally, the bulk of supplies went to the hardest hit areas in the Lower Peninsula.”
    Jones added that the National Guard medical technicians have also been critical in testing in the Upper Peninsula testing and training in the state prisons, the local jails and some of the long-term care facilities. He said training of local staff to perform testing will be critical in the future.
    Szabo said he wants to keep all his fellow Yoopers safe and let them know the National Guard is there for them.
    “It honestly feels great, because being from the U.P. and being able to help out other Yoopers and actually show a presence and let our community members feel that we are supporting them any way we can,” he said. “The people we’ve been working with truly appreciate it and we appreciate helping out because they’ve been supporting us so much in every other aspect before this pandemic.”
    “As the local emergency manager, I cannot thank the Guardsmen enough for their contribution and helping hand at this critical time in our lives,” Jones added.
    “We thank them for their efforts and presence during this pandemic.”