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National Guard COVID-19 testing reminiscent of earlier pandemic responses

Medics preparing for the first nasal swabs of the day [John Tremmel photo]

People of a certain age remember standing in line on the sidewalk of their neighborhood street in 1955 and receiving their polio vaccine in a sugar cube. They also remember their first flu shots, which although available in the U.S. military as early as 1942, really were not widely available to civilians until the early 1960s.

This reporter remembers his first flu shot received in September 1963 at Parris Island, South Carolina, the east coast boot camp for the Marine Corps.

Many more people remember receiving Swine Flu [H1N1] shots in 1976 when President Gerald Ford ordered mass vaccinations of the population on a voluntary basis. To get the Swine Flu shot or not was a controversial decision for many people.

After that, the general population did not worry much about pandemics, even during the AIDS crisis, because the majority of the population did not believe they were at risk.

Now, with COVID-19, everyone is assumed to be “at risk,” with some more at risk than others. At the end of May, the National Guard administered voluntary COVID-19 tests, done via nasal swabs, at locations throughout Missouri.

Military tents, vehicles and uniforms are usually not seen in public parks unless there is some type of air show or exhibition, but on Saturday, May 30, there they were in St. Charles County’s Youth Activity Park on Route N in Dardenne Prairie.

Those wishing to be tested, including this reporter, had to pre-register online before heading to the park. My wife and I arrived at the appointed time and stayed in our car. Professional and friendly Guard medics verified personal and medical information, then conducted the nasal swab.

The actual time for the swab was only 3 or 4 seconds. While the test was as uncomfortable as expected, it was a bit anti-climactic after all of the preregistering, checking of information, maneuvering of my vehicle and driving through the testing tent.

Results were returned from Quest Diagnostics within five days of testing.

While the testing was voluntary, Missouri Director of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams believes it helps both individuals as well as local, state and national authorities.

“It not only helps people because we do have some positive [tests], it reassures those people who are negative,” Williams said. “It also helps us very much as we move from an acute phase to recovery, to have a snapshot of what’s going on in our communities.”

Medics verifying information and conducting nasal swabs [John Tremmel photo]
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