By Lt. Col. Jordan Darnauer, Medical Detachment commander, 144th Medical Group, 144th Fighter Wing
/ Published July 31, 2020
Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif. --
Medical personnel from the 144th Medical Group’s medical detachment are finally returning home after spending more than 90 days supporting over 15,000 COVID-19 tests and medical treatment for hundreds of COVID-19 patients in Monterey, Riverside and Imperial counties. The one take away is that Personal Protection Equipment protocols work!
In April, the California Air National Guard deployed over 44 medical personnel from the 144th Fighter Wing, the 129th Rescue Wing, the 146th Airlift Wing, and the 163d Attack Wing along with the Army National Guard to fully integrate with the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, Riverside County, and Imperial County hospitals. Our team worked directly with COVID-19-positive patients in emergency rooms, intensive care units, medical surgical units, and step-down units. Members worked 12 to 14 hour shifts, donning and doffing PPE an average of 30 to 40 times per shift to protect both themselves and the patients. Since mission completion, all 44 medical personnel tested negative for COVID-19, which can be directly contributed to the utilization of PPE!
Upon our return, I was surprised to learn that the 144th Fighter Wing recently saw a spike in COVID-19-positive members. Coming from the “California Epicenter” of COVID-19, this led me to one conclusion: We can do a better job of adhering to PPE precautions to slow the spread of the virus to each other. We have all heard the excuses about why “you” don’t wear a mask or follow PPE protocols. So look at it this way. It is not about “you.” It’s about your parents, it’s about your friend’s parents, and it’s about our most susceptible populations who are at risk, including our grandparents, immune compromised family members, and those who have pre-existing medical conditions. New studies have shown that as many as 35 to 40 percent of the population can be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Remember, the wear of cloth or surgical masks are to protect others from you unintentionally transmitting the virus while having normal conversations, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend time with our loved ones-- we just need to be smart about it! If 44 medical personnel can spend countless hours in direct medical contact with COVID-19-positive patients and never contract the virus, we should all be able to do the same. All we need to do is simply ensure we always adhere to the most basic of PPE protocols at work and at home.