The Kentucky National Guard has been working alongside the University of Louisville since March of 2020 in the fight against COVID. Yesterday, a ceremony here marked a new milestone when UofL Health closed its drive-thru testing and vaccination site in downtown Louisville.
Over the past 15 months, dozens of Kentucky National Guardsman have helped UofL medical staff administer 17,160 COVID tests and provide vaccines to more than 145,230 citizens, according to Maj. Tiffany Campbell, the Air National Guard officer who oversaw the mission.
“We had a team that varied anywhere from about 12 people all the way up to 63 at one point, which was a mixture of Army and Air Guard personnel,” Campbell said. “We were called in to ease the workload for the remarkable nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and doctors who staffed the clinic during the chaotic uncertainties our community was facing.”
The Guardsmen helped with a wide variety of duties, she added.
“We did everything from traffic management to just helping folks get into the correct drive-thru lane. We helped with a lot of administrative things at this specific site that we hadn't done at other sites, where we were helping with patient vaccination and patient testing registration. We also ended up scanning over 61,000 COVID vaccine documents for patients that came here to get their vaccinations.”
The UofL Health team was thankful to have the Kentucky Guard’s help, according to Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer.
“I'll be forever indebted to the people behind us,” Smith said during the ceremony, gesturing to a group of Guardsmen, “because (they enhanced) our ability to go out into the community to serve those that would not have had the opportunity to get the vaccine. To get tests particularly early in this pandemic was provided because of the people stepping up day and night through cold, through heat, through rain, and when we barely had working buildings at times.”
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Wilkinson, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, also attended the ceremony and had high praise for the Airmen and Soldiers who supported the clinic.
“I especially want to thank the men and women of the Kentucky National Guard, both Army and Air, that have served for over a year,” he said. “I'm really proud of what they did to contribute and to make a sacrifice for the betterment of our families across the Commonwealth.”
The commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, Col. David Mounkes, added: “I'm very proud of the way this team came together, both community and military. We're all very honored that we got to help in this historic pandemic to try to give back to the community and in overcoming the incredible challenges that we face.”
Campbell said the experience will stay with her for a long time.
“This has absolutely made an impact on myself and the team for the fact that what we were doing was so important,” she said. “I tried to remind our people daily about what an impact they're making on the community here. This is the health of all of us. This is us serving the citizens here locally.”
While UofL’s drive-thru clinic may now be closed, the Kentucky National Guard’s COVID mission is not complete, Campbell said. Airmen and Soldiers will continue to work at other sites around the entire Commonwealth to ensure the health of its citizens as long as needed.