Minnesota National Guard sends mobile teams to bolster testing at nursing homes

Minnesota National Guard has joined the fight against COVID-19 spread at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the state.

Governor Walz has directed the Minnesota National Guard to mobilize teams that will help perform tests at care facilities statewide.

Guard members will be the first parts of increased testing "strike forces" that the state will use in the coming weeks to increase testing at hot spots. A majority of the COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have come at congregate care facilities.

So far, 20 guard members have been trained and given protective gear to perform the tests. The soldiers assisting with the test are medics with the Guard -- not your typical soldiers.

"They complete about four months of skills training on patient care and treatment techniques as well as emergency medical procedures," explained Home Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly.

Kelly says the medics are also required to earn EMT certifications and many also work in the health care system outside their guard service.

The testing will be primarily used to help nursing homes that don't have relationships with hospital systems with access to testing along with identified hot spots.

According to officials, the mobile teams collected their first samples at care facilities Thursday afternoon.