Idaho National Guard pandemic mission ends

PHD: ‘We truly could not have done this without their support’

By Reader Staff

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced June 24 that the Idaho National Guard’s COVID-19 Task Force would begin wrapping up operations over the coming weeks as the impacts of the pandemic continue to lessen in the state.

The governor’s office reported that the Guard’s task force has completed more than 70 unique mission assignments since its activation in March 2020, ranging from administrative and logistical support; COVID-19 testing and screening; administering vaccines; decontaminating long-term care facilities; and other support to Idaho’s health district offices, hospitals and other health care facilities, as well as partnering with Native American tribes. 

In addition, Guard efforts have facilitated nearly 350,000 vaccines administered to Idaho citizens.  

Idaho National Guard personnel prepare to vaccinate clinic attendees in Feb. 2021. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert.

“The Idaho National Guard has played a critical role in saving lives and reducing the impact of COVID-19 on Idaho citizens. The Guard’s support was truly a game changer in the darkest months of our pandemic fight,” Little said in a media release. “As a result of the Guard’s efforts, and the efforts of all our frontline and health care workers, Idaho has remained one of the most open states throughout the global pandemic.”

Little authorized an initial activation of 50 Guard personnel last spring to immediately respond to requests for assistance from food banks throughout the state and provide storage and distribution of critical PPE across Idaho during the early days of the battle against COVID-19.

As the year went on, the governor increased that number to more than 300 personnel serving on the task force.

“This has been a great opportunity for the members of the Idaho National Guard to give back to the communities throughout the state, who provide us with such a tremendous amount of support,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “I’m extremely proud of the incredible efforts our soldiers and airmen put forth to ensure the health and safety of the citizens of Idaho.”

Health districts, health care facilities and other entities currently receiving support from the Idaho National Guard’s COVID-19 Task Force can expect to see a draw down of Guard personnel over the next two weeks, with support concluding on Friday, July 9.

The Panhandle Health District and other health care providers across North Idaho have seen National Guard support throughout the COVID-19 response. With case counts shrinking and a decreased demand for the vaccine, PHD announced in a June 24 media release, it is time for these service men and women to head home.

“The Idaho National Guard’s support has been integral in ensuring an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and aiding PHD in the reduction of the loss of life and the sustainment of our community’s health,” said PHD Health Services Administrator Don Duffy. “They have supported our COVID-19 response operations in the five northern counties in a variety of initiatives. We truly could not have done this without their support and we will miss having them as part of our team.”

A total of 74 National Guardsmen served the North Idaho community as a part of a larger, statewide COVID-19 response initiative. 

“This was an all-volunteer team of Idahoans who raised their hand to help their neighbors in a time of need,” PHD officials shared.

Due to the decrease in demand and the reduction in available staffing, PHD will be closing the mass vaccine clinics at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and Rathdrum and the University of Idaho Agriculture Center in Sandpoint effective Thursday, July 8. Anyone who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can schedule an appointment at any of the PHD office locations in Hayden, Sandpoint, St. Maries, Bonners Ferry or Kellogg.

Those with questions about COVID-19 in North Idaho can call PHD’s hotline Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 877-415-5225.

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