National Guard unit trains island EMTs on COVID testing

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 5:15pm

A Reaction Force unit of the Rhode Island National Guard based out of Camp Fogarty in East Greenwich came to Block Island to train first responders here on how to properly administer a COVID-19 test.

The members of the Rescue Squad also underwent the test themselves, displaying a variety of emotions and faces as the swab was inserted into a nostril to get the necessary DNA for a result.

The team arrived at the Block Island Airport about 12:30 or so in two helicopters. They brought with them a variety of equipment to administer the tests. The National Guard unit is responsible for training first responders all over the state.

“Anyone who wants to do the test will be trained,” said Capt. Tracy Fredericks of the Rescue Squad, who was at the airport to greet the unit, along with Chief Kirk Littlefield of the Fire Department.

As the island eases into the 2020 season, a traditional hallmark of which is a variety of accidents and mishaps that range from the serious to minor, Fredericks said that the local first responders had most of the equipment and tools needed to keep them safe during a rescue call.

“There are protocols that have been in place through the Centers for Disease Control for months now, including what to wear, what to do,” said Fredericks.

If an accident victim feels as though they may be exhibiting symptoms, Fredericks said, the protocol is for police dispatch to call the Medical Center first and then follow the necessary protocols. (Notwithstanding, as Fredericks noted, is that anyone who is visiting the island with symptoms of any kind should not be here in the first place.) First responders will be outfitted with masks, gloves and goggles, she said.

“We go out into the community. We don’t want to infect anybody,” she said.

When the teams made their way over to the Fire Barn, where the testing was to be done, first responders listened to the trainers as they demonstrated how to take a proper sample. Then those who wished to be tested filled out a form. Two members of the National Guard team, dressed in full hazmat suits, administered the tests, the results of which are expected in a couple of days.