The Indiana National Guard assisted the Indiana State Department of Health, Lake County Health Department, Merrillville Police Department, and other agencies to conduct the first state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Merrillville High School on April 8.
Twenty-eight soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment stationed out of South Bend, Indiana assisted with traffic control, lane setup, and overall support to ISDH.
“We appreciate the work that the Guard is doing in collaborating with us,” said Shane Hatchett, Chief of Staff for Indiana State Department of Health. “We’ve had the Guard embedded in our operations center for about a month now, and we’re able to put these things together because of their assistance. We really wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
Due to the high public demand, the site was chosen to make testing more accessible for first responders, medical professionals, essential business personnel, grocery store employees, bus drivers, and others who experience potential COVID-19 symptoms.
“A lot of people have been asking about more testing,” said Hatchett, who has been with ISDH since 2019. “We are making it more accessible to those who are putting their lives on the line every day.”
From inception to execution, the event was put together in about 48 hours after consulting with Dr. Chandana Vavilala, Lake County health officer. The Department of Homeland Security was also instrumental in facilitating conversations between the ISDH, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the National Guard and other agencies.
“Indiana National Guardsmen and women support the communities they live in; they are neighbors, family member, and friends,” said 2nd Lt. Shawn Stachula, officer in charge of the battalion. “It’s important that the Guard gets engaged in their local community because it gives an opportunity for soldiers to be a direct first responder and engage and support in ways we may not have been able to do prior.”
The successful interaction between the National Guard, local and state agencies is crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community. Events like the testing site fosters further positive interactions in preparation for any state emergency or time of need as deemed necessary by the governor of Indiana.
“Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, and Governor Holcomb have been very adamant that ‘we are all in this together,’ and what we are asking of others we are doing ourselves,” said Hatchett
The drive-thru testing site is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through April 11, 2020, for first responders and essential employees who are experiencing symptoms.
Courtesy of the Indiana National Guard Public Affairs Office