Kansas National Guard engages in supplies distribution for COVID-19 campaign

TOPEKA – Members of the Kansas National Guard are busy planning the distribution of medical supplies recently received from the Strategic National Stockpile and other logistics for aiding in the campaign against COVID-19. They aren’t contemplating martial law, quarantine enforcement or other draconian measures outside “the realm of possibility,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the state’s adjutant general.

“There’s all kinds of social media saying the National Guard is taking over, they’re on the streets, they’re going to do this or that,” Tafanelli said.

In reality, he said, the Guard is working to relieve pressure on local communities in the same way they would after a tornado, flood or other natural disaster. That could mean the transport of medical supplies from a clandestine location to hospitals all over the state, as well as the collection and delivery of test samples.

So far, at least 35 residents and two out-of-state visitors have tested positive for the coronavirus in Kansas. Schools and universities have closed their doors, mass gatherings are prohibited, and restaurants and bars have shut down at the direction of local health officials.
The Legislature adjourned Thursday after reaching a budget deal that delivers a $50 million fund for the state’s response to COVID-19, plus $15 million directed to the adjutant general’s office for navigating the pandemic.

Tafanelli said the Kansas National Guard currently has 18 members on active duty. About 6,500 could be called upon to serve, but Tafanelli said the actual number would be much lower. Some of the servicemen and women provide critical resources to local communities, including law enforcement officers and medical professionals, and it would defeat the purpose to pull them away.
Even in the most extreme scenario, where fear and panic gives way to riots and looting, it is unlikely Gov. Laura Kelly would call upon the Guard to police the streets.
“We would provide support to law enforcement on the administrative side so they can free up more of their officers to deal with those situations,” Tafanelli said.
He urged Kansans to pause for a moment and adhere to recommendations for social distancing and sheltering at home.
“We’re going to get through this,” Tafanelli said, “but the way we get through this the quickest and get back to a normal day-to-day life is if we all can cooperate, if we all make sure we do those things we can do individually to make sure we’re not contributing to the spread of the disease.”

Information thanks to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department.

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