ST PAUL, Minn. — It's all hands on deck as members of the Minnesota National Guard take on a new, but familiar mission.
"We have approximately 70 soldiers and airmen who have come on active duty orders to help supplement testing operations at testing sites," said Scott Rohweder, the Director of Operations for the MN National Guard.
Rohweder says soldiers are jumping back in to help support the state's COVID-19 response efforts.
It's part of Gov. Tim Walz's newly announced plan, which includes soldiers and airmen broken into seven teams, helping at rapid testing sites in Stillwater, Hutchinson and Crookston.
"We are starting at three sites this week and three additional sites next week to help increase capacity for the state," he said.
From March 2020 until September of last year, the Minnesota National Guard mobilized nearly 970 service members to support the state's health emergency plan, operating out of 45 different sites across the state.
"In the past we've been very involved in several missions, the testing operations we completed last year or long-term care facilities, and that support," he said.
And it's not just testing sites where the guard will be helping. Soldiers are also being trained to help alleviate staffing shortages at hospitals and care facilities in the near future, to help take the strain off our first responders.
"Should relieve some of the pressure, and you should start to see, the sites we identified last week will be stood up with support from the MN National Guard," said Gov. Tim Walz, during a press conference Monday.
As a shortage of workers and capacity issues continue to cause concerns, Rohweder says soldiers are standing by, ready to help.
"That's something we take pride in, any time we can assist the state of Minnesota and it's citizens, that's something special to us," said Rohweder.
Gov. Walz says the state is working to get more rapid tests to community testing sites and expanding access to the COVID-19 Emergency Staffing Pool, allowing long-term care facilities to request short term staffing to deal with shortages due to COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities.