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Coronavirus In Ohio: National Guard To End Pandemic Missions In August

In this March 24, 2020, file photo, members of The Ohio National Guard assist in repackaging emergency food boxes for food distribution at the Cleveland Food Bank in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press

The Ohio National Guard will soon have to end its pandemic-related missions, including its first assignment in the coronavirus crisis, helping 12 Ohio food banks with the huge job of getting food to increasing numbers of people who need it.

The first pandemic deployment for 500 members of the guard in March incuded packing, moving and distributing food.

But Ohio Association of Food Banks executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt said she got a letter from Adjutant General Major General John Harris Jr. this week saying the guard would be leaving the food banks.

“He notified us that the presidential declaration as well as the additional federal funding will be ending and we’ll be losing our Guardsmen and women on August 7,” Hamler-Fugitt says.

Food banks have struggled with soaring need and a loss of corporate and senior citizen volunteers since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Hamler-Fugitt said some volunteers have returned but food banks will turn to other community groups to keep food distributions going.

Hamler-Fugitt also said other pandemic-related assignments will be affected.

"It’s not just the food assistance mission they’ve been on but other missions they’ve been on as well," she says. "It has been an honor and a privilege to work with them.”

The guard’s role in COVID-19 testing at pop-up sites and nursing homes will also end in August, unless funding is extended.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.