HARTFORD, Conn. --
Connecticut National Guard members have spearheaded efforts to expand the state’s COVID-19 testing stockpile, assembling 107,000 test kits in five days last week.
Teams comprised mostly of Soldiers from the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment and Headquarters Headquarters Company worked around the clock at the Governor William A. O’Neill State Armory to produce the kits. They will ensure that there are testing supplies available if there is another surge where testing supplies are difficult to obtain.
“We had set up eight shifts of staff and expected 70,000 kits to be produced and they built 107,000,” said Maj. Monica Forrest, 103rd Airlift Wing, public health officer. “We are now moving 18 containers of kits to the Windsor Locks Readiness Center to free up space to do the same thing this week.”
The assembly team supports two lines of effort: the stockpile project and an active inventory of 139,000 testing kits.
“These are the same staff who are filling orders for testing supplies in the state,” said Forrest. “So they are managing an active inventory and delivering kits when needed and building the stockpile effort.”
The team’s assembly of kits is key to ensuring immediate testing availability, said Forrest.
“The kit components come in separately, so someone has to put them together, so they’re available for immediate use,” said Forrest. “We’re proud that we’re providing this effort and making it so that all of the supplies that come in from the various sources, including FEMA and the state lab, are assembled and ready.”
Each kit contains a tube, swab, and biohazard bag for an individual patient. These kits are assembled into boxes of 150 before being loaded into the large tri-wall containers.
“We’ve been working long hours and it’s been worth it,” said Sgt. Robert Blakeslee, 1-102nd Infantry Regiment project noncommissioned officer in charge. “We’ve gotten into a really good rhythm.”
Blakeslee and his Soldiers have been supporting various COVID-19 response missions around the state since March, including building recovery centers at state universities and assembling these testing kits.
“Connecticut is our home,” said Blakeslee. “To make an impact on the bigger picture and help make sure people are safe is a pretty good feeling.”