FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Since the start of the pandemic, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and his advising staff have taken a proactive approach to ensure Kentuckians remain safe.
In March 2020, the state experienced its first spike in positive COVID-19 cases. The need for sterile and disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) grew exponentially.
Many critical items became scarce all across the United States.
It was clear the governor needed to plan for collecting an abundance of life-saving PPE, and these items would need to be distributed to healthcare workers' when requested.
Alongside the Department of Public Health and Environmental Management, Soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard activated to support this mission. Their task—to receive, store, and ship PPE from a warehouse in Frankfort to the medical facilities in need.
"I do not doubt that we helped save lives," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Bowling, the officer in charge of the COVID-19 Response Team. "We have been shipping to fifteen regions across the state since March. Without this operation, I believe more people would have been exposed to COVID-19 from the start."
On Sept. 14, along with First Lady Britainy Beshear and several staff members, the governor toured the storage warehouse in Frankfort. Sparking the trip was a large donation from Ford Motor Company.
"Before this global health crisis arrived in Kentucky more than six months ago, we were working to secure the personal protective equipment needed to keep our people safe," the governor said. "Many great companies that do business in the commonwealth have been key partners in these efforts. Today, we're happy to announce that the Ford Motor Co. has generously donated 2 million masks to the commonwealth; which is among the largest gifts we have received. This donation undoubtedly will help save Kentuckians' lives."
As supplies became more accessible, and donations continued to be shipped in, Soldiers expanded the 50,000-square-foot warehouse to 108,000 square feet. This expansion shows Kentucky’s efforts to make sure it stands ready with the necessary PPE should another significant spike occur.
On Sept. 9, a snapshot of Kentucky's inventory of PPE showed:
Face shields: 1,261,766
Surgical masks: 11,279,861
N95 masks: 930,110
The facility houses approximately 50 million dollars' worth of PPE for the state of Kentucky.
"The intent is to have the Department of Public Health and Environmental Management mission capable without the help of the Guard by the end of the year," said Bowling. "For my Soldiers, and myself, this mission helped us continue to work and provide for our communities meaningfully through this pandemic."