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Meet these Unsung Heroes

There are many unsung heroes in Alabama’s fight against the Wuhan novel Coronavirus-19. 175 of them are working tirelessly in the Unified Command center, a “war room” set up by the Governor to lead Alabama’s 24/7 response to the pandemic.

Located in the RSA Tower in downtown Montgomery, Alabama’s Unified Command for COVID-19 Response is a team comprised of four state agencies – the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), Alabama National Guard, and Alabama Forestry Commission. Together, they have joined forces to lead the state's effort to fight the deadly Coronavirus.

Retired Col. Jim Hawkins of the Alabama National Guard came back from the private sector to help coordinate this herculean effort. Agencies are working together collaboratively for the good of the state. AEMA Director Brian Hasting pointed out that at any time other cabinet agencies can be called upon to assist.

“People bring so many different skill sets and so much expertise,” Harris said. “Things that we don’t have internally at the Health Department, and so we are so fortunate to have all of that in Alabama and have all of that on the same team working together.”

In the data division, masked Guardsmen collect information about how many beds, ventilators and intensive care unit spaces are available, providing as close to real-time information as possible to the Department of Public Health and the state. According to Dr. Harris “We're not making policy in the unified command. We're arming the administration with the facts.”

The logistics division takes requests from medical facilities and first responders around the state for more protective equipment like masks and gloves. They use the National Guard, Alabama Forestry Commission and public health employees to distribute material from the state’s stockpile to places where it is most needed.

Procurement efforts are led by Ken Reid and Bethany Elliot. Reid is the subject matter expert (SME) and vets all PPE for authenticity and approval. Elliott is head of the procurement team and negotiates product selection and purchases products along with Joint Unified Command. ”Tracking down the PPE is getting somewhat easier but is still a challenge.

Our normal supply chains were almost non-existent, they just didn't have product enough to support everyone and so we needed to go outside of the normal supply chains, she stated.

Nursing home residents are vulnerable because chronic health conditions place them at risk for serious illness and possibly death if they become sick from COVID-19. Medical Operations Branch Chief Col. Lisa Pierce said her team is focusing its attention on nursing home facilities and the kind of decontamination services they need. The National Guard is providing those services free of charge and is training the nursing homes on how to properly sanitize. These services would cost as much as $10,000 per facility.

They are always thinking ahead. As we press forward, they are planning on how they will support the reopening of schools. All four state agencies have been working together since late March, putting aside all individual egos, and doing what is best for the state of Alabama.

This operation is another prime example of Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership. She does not crave attention posturing in front of the cameras as so many Blue State governors are doing. Her only motivation is to get Alabama safely back to work and back to school while taking extra precautions protecting the most vulnerable from this unseen enemy. Please join me in giving a special thanks to these unsung heroes.


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