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'We’re looking forward to a new day': SC National Guard explains their many roles in COVID-19 response

Major General Brad Owens talks to News19 about what the SC National Guard has been doing across the Palmetto State.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina National Guard has been assisting in COVID19 relief across the state for the past ten months. 

Their roles have spanned all over from testing to stepping in at hospitals. 

Major General Brad Owens is the director of Joint Staff and says, “Our primary mission right now is the testing sites where we have general purpose troops throughout SC supporting DHEC and other medical providers and we’ve also got our swab teams that are actually taking the samples.”

The National Guard is assisting at 25 testing sites across the state, working inside five prisons and providing over 20 medical personnel to help hospitals deal with a staffing shortage.

Major General Owens told News19, “Additionally, of course, the vaccine is rolling out so we have a vaccine storage site where we receive the vaccine in with Emergency Management Division personnel and also with SCDHEC- and then we repackage, redistribute and then we ship out to some of the smaller hospitals that don’t get the direct shipment.”

General Owens says they are constantly collaborating with EMD and DHEC to prepare for any kind of surge that may come after the holidays. But they are hoping to help in the distribution of the vaccine soon, “We are in the initial planning stages of hopefully getting our medics off the swab sites and getting our medics out of the hospitals once we get over the hurdle and actually conduct some mobile testing and do some mobile administering of the vaccine.”

Going into 2021, General Owens is optimistic about their plans, “We’re looking forward to a new day.”

There are almost 500 National Guard soldiers on duty right now across South Carolina.