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California National Guard enlisted for help at test sites around the county, state

The National Guard is arriving in San Diego to help with COVID-19 testing. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says it’s part of a request from the governor to shorten lines throughout the state.

The California National Guard is being deployed in San Diego to help with COVID-19 testing. It is part of a request from the governor to help shorten lines throughout the state.

COVID-19 testing lines have been backing up at test sites around San Diego County since the emergence of the omicron variant.

“Either they are getting their test for work. Getting their test for school or just getting their test for sanity's sake," said Master Sgt. Jose Mercado, spokesman for California National Guard. "It’s such a vulnerable time for us. We don’t know if we have just a cold or we’re really transmitting something to our families.”

Nicholas McVicker / KPBS
A National Guard servicemember giving instruction to a woman waiting in line for COVID-19 testing in San Diego, Jan. 10, 2022.

Beginning Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered roughly 200 California National Guard troops to 50 sites around the state.

So far 70 guard troops have been called up in Southern California, including San Diego. Most sites will have at least a few guard members.

Those with medical backgrounds will help with testing, while the rest will help with paperwork and managing lines. More are on the way, Mercado said.

“We are getting more folks that are wanting to volunteer and we have slots,” he said.


The guard is estimating they will be there at least a month, maybe longer. All of the troops called up are volunteering for this duty.

Many have served in other missions since the beginning of the pandemic.

Unlike earlier missions, most of the troops arriving at test sites are local, which allows them to go home at night.