By Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 230 Airmen and Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard have spent the past four days turning a cavernous exhibit hall here into an Alternate Care Facility for patients recovering from COVID-19.
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The 288-bed site, located in the South Wing of the Kentucky
Fair and Exposition Center, will be ready to accept patients beginning at 5 p.m.
today, said Army Lt. Col. Jessicah Garrett, commander of the joint Army and Air
National Guard unit that is providing clinical services. Her team of nearly 200
troops includes 82 doctors, nurses and medics who stand ready to provide
around-the-clock medical care here, should area hospitals reach capacity.
The facility, which can be expanded to 2,000 beds, was
designed to treat patients who are in their final days of recovery and don’t
need intensive medical care, explained Garrett, commander of the Kentucky
Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives
Enhanced Response Force Package, also known as CERFP.
“These are patients who are able to walk,” Garrett said.
“They can provide self-care with minimal assistance, such as go to the bathroom
or take a shower, and are fairly self-sufficient.”
The Kentucky Air Guard’s Lt. Col. Kevin Howard said he expects
patients to stay for no longer than seven days, at which point they would no
longer test positive for the virus and will be released to go home.
“If we can take these patients here, local hospitals will
have beds for the more urgent patients,” said Howard, a medical doctor for the
Department of Veterans Affairs and commander of the Air Guard’s
Louisville-based 123rd Medical Group Detachment 1. “So that way, our hospitals’
capabilities are available for patients that need a higher level of care.”
Howard’s staff includes a broad range of physicians, nurse
practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and medics who normally work in
civilian hospitals and clinics when not performing military duty. Besides
practitioners from the Kentucky Air Guard, the team also includes clinicians
from the Kentucky Army Guard’s Shelbyville-based 1163rd Army Medical Support
“The staff I have here are all excellent providers and more
than capable of handling this mission and taking care of our patients in this
facility,” he said, adding, “It’s an honor and privilege to be able to help.
“One of the nice things about the Guard is that we are Kentuckians
helping fellow Kentuckians. That’s a unique aspect, and I know everyone is
happy to be here and do what we’ve trained to do.”
“We’re proud to come in here and help Kentuckians in any way
possible,” she said. “If you talk to any Guardsman, Air or Army, they are 100
percent Team Kentucky. They want to be out in the community helping. That’s the
whole reason we serve.”
Air Force Maj. Jarret Goddard — who led a team of 39
Kentucky Guardsmen that built the facility in just 2 ½ days — said he was
thankful for the broad range of agencies supporting the effort.
“The design phase of this project began about a week ago in
collaboration with multiple entities,” said Goddard, operations officer for the
Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron. “From the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers to Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky Department of
Public Health, it has been a real team effort.
“Being able to help our fellow citizens is a pretty
rewarding thing for all of us.”