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FEMA COVID-19 surge teams undergo training in Las Vegas

Updated July 15, 2021 - 4:49 pm

The first FEMA COVID-19 surge response teams have arrived in Southern Nevada and members are being trained for their new mission, which will include door-to-door canvassing in an effort to increase vaccination rates.

In a Thursday post on Twitter, Gov. Steve Sisolak wrote he’s grateful to have FEMA on the ground to help with the COVID-19 vaccination program.

“After robust training & briefings, these teams will be joining our efforts to get more Nevadans vaccinated,” he wrote.

Sisolak’s post includes photos from a training session at UNLV’s Philip J. Cohen Theatre in the Student Union.

The first wave of FEMA surge response teams, with about 85 members, arrived Tuesday in Southern Nevada. Another group is expected to arrive in a week or two.

The teams will work with state agencies to assist with pop-up vaccination sites, a call center and neighborhood canvassing. The state requested the federal help after its major COVID-19 metrics began to rise in June.

FEMA will begin its Southern Nevada canvassing operation Saturday and will work every day except Mondays, said David Fogerson, chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Office of Homeland Security, in a Thursday call with reporters.

Teams will educate people about the COVID-19 vaccine and about nearby sites where they can get vaccinated, he said.

“We’re working toward opening more clinics right now, we’re just gathering the data, but Saturday they’re going to start getting out in the field to start talking to the communities,” Fogerson said. “That way we can start getting the word out.”

He said the state was working with community-based organizations on the canvassing operation but did not identify them.

The Southern Nevada Health District referred a Review-Journal inquiry about the federal teams’ role earlier this week to the governor’s office.

FEMA is working with the community-based organizations and supporting the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Nevada Department Health and Human Services, said Lynn Hatcher, a spokesperson with Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.’s office.

Michelle White, Sisolak’s chief of staff, said at the briefing that the federal teams will build on operations already under way.

“What FEMA’s going to do is really help support and enhance those efforts on the ground from Nevadans that are really leading the charge in the communities and know these targeted areas, both based on data and based on being Nevadans and knowing the messages that Nevadans want to hear,” she said.

Volunteers are also being mobilized from AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and two “national, non-governmental organizations,” Hatcher said via email.

Peace Corps volunteers will begin to arrive Sunday and will support the vaccination campaign with “clinic support and outreach,” spokeswoman Marjorie Wass said via email. Four teams will be deployed with a total of 24 volunteers.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

Review-Journal staff writer Jonah Dylan contributed to this report.

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