Baker activates Mass. National Guard members to support COVID-19 testing at schools | News
BOSTON (WGGB/WSHM) – Gov. Charlie Baker has activated up to 450 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help with COVID-19 testing at K-12 schools and to offset possible staffing shortages at the state’s Department of Correction (DOC).
Baker’s office said Tuesday that of those activations, up to 200 members will be activated to support the school testing mission. Over 2,200 schools have signed up to participate in one of three types of testing and as these programs continue to ramp up, the guard members will be used to expand testing support at schools.
Guard members will receive training this week and will begin administering COVID-19 testing at select schools starting Monday.
Mass. Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said in a statement:
“We are very thankful to the men and women of the National Guard for their assistance to help school districts handle some operational challenges in order to continue to keep students, teachers and staff safe.”
“The National Guard was there when we needed them to drive some children to school due to a nationwide bus driver shortage, and now we are thankful they are once again willing to serve the children of the Commonwealth with COVID-19 testing.”
In addition, up to 250 guard members will be activated as a contingency measure for possible staffing shortages at DOC facilities. The DOC is reportedly continuing preparations for possible staffing level reductions due to non-compliance with an executive order that requires all Executive Department employees show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by October 17.
Mass. DOC Commissioner Carol Mici explained in a statement:
“DOC staff has performed remarkably throughout the pandemic. As we continue to navigate an unprecedented public health crisis, well-being and safety remain our priority, and we appreciate the large number of staff who have submitted their vaccination attestation forms ahead of the deadline.”
“We are grateful for the Guard’s assistance in supporting the DOC’s mission as we continue to encourage our staff to comply with the vaccination mandate.”
Guard members will begin training this week to help the DOC, if needed, with transportation and exterior security functions. The external functions will not involve direct contact with inmates. The state noted that if guard members are needed to provide transportation, a correctional officer will accompany them.
Baker’s office added that these two missions will not interfere with the guard’s ability to respond to and assist in state emergencies.