PA Guard helps open Luzerne County Community Based Testing Site

By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler | April 23, 2020

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. —

Pennsylvania National Guard members and officials from Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency opened a COVID-19 testing site at Mohegan Sun Arena on April 20.

“Today was the first day of the community testing. We had a soft start, we did first responders and local health providers. They were able to come through – drive through – and get a COVID-19 test,” said 1st Lt. Owen Dietrich of the 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, and the officer in charge of the Pa. National Guard forces supporting the testing site. “Today was basically their day, to make sure they are able to go out and perform their jobs properly.”

For several days leading up to the “soft start,” Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Regiment; 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment; and 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, trained with Soldiers and Airmen from the 3rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Task Force. The 3rd CBRN TF, part of the Homeland Response Force for Federal Emergency Management Agency Region III, helped establish and run a testing site in Montgomery County from March 20 to early April.

Before transitioning the mission to the 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, the 3rd CBRN TF had screened more than 3,700 individuals and were prepared to train the Soldiers from PTFN with their lessons learned.

“We conducted a lot of training, a lot of hands-on training, and we were thoroughly trained by the 3rd CBRN Task Force who headed up the mission in Montgomery County to do their COVID-19 testing site as well,” said 2nd Lt. Brianna Stetts, medical operations for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment.

To assist with the flow of individuals through the testing site, participants are required to register online first at health.pa.gov. The registration allows each individual enough time to go through the self-testing process during the operating hours of the testing site.

Individuals going through the testing process would go through several different steps. First, they would be checked in after pulling into the opening coned area at the entrance of the parking lot. Then, they are directed into one of two lanes of traffic.

Following the guidance of the sheriff’s office, the individuals wait their turn to move into the tent. The individual vehicle would then receiving directions from officials from the PA DOH and PA Guard: making sure their information is correct for the test tube, how to properly self-administer the test, and then how to seal the container. After placing the sealed container into the rack, the individual is then informed about how long till their results my take before being encouraged to head home and be safe.

To assist English and Spanish speaking individuals, PA DOH and PEMA officials created signs and provided employees that speak in both English and Spanish to coordinate with individuals whose first language is not English.

“I think today was a very smooth first day, and I was very happy with how things went,” said Dietrich. “From all the higher ups at [Pennsylvania Department of Health] or public health services, everyone seemed happy with how we were able to function, and I think it was a very good first day.”