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Guard helps Washoe County collect COVID-19 samples

The Nevada National Guard began Friday to assist Washoe County Health District COVID-19 sample collection capability at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center with about 30 medical support personnel.

Nevada National Guard duty assignments at the site include sample collection, contact tracing and call center and administrative support.

“This is history,” said Maj. Laurie MacAfee, Nevada National Guard state occupational health nurse. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen soldiers and airmen truly integrate as one in this kind of scenario and work with our civilian counterparts. It’s incredible. The relationship we built with Washoe County has been fantastic.”

MacAfee, along with other guardsmen at the Joint Operations Center in Carson City, developed the plan last week to integrate guardsmen with health district personnel and members of the community emergency response team.

MacAfee is set to meet with the Southern Nevada Health District, regional hospitals and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas this week for plans to assist in their sample collection efforts.

“We are looking at other counties in the state to integrate our personnel,” MacAfee said. “The Washoe County Health District has done an incredible job. We are so impressed. We are supporting their process, which was already in place.”

The Nevada Guard aids the health district in its efforts to meet Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive for testing expansion, MacAfee said.

The Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center site collects about 250-300 samples each day and is operational Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Washoe County launched drive-thru sample collections in early March and expanded with the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center site April 1.

Drive-thru public collection sites allow for increased safety; staff are in full personal protective equipment and residents can remain their vehicle.

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