TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas National Guard has been called to help with the COVID-19 response.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office deployed 80 nonmedical soldiers and airmen to support the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s testing sites across the state.

On Thursday, the Sherman County Health Department director spoke with KLOE radio and talked about the guard arriving to help.

Additionally, Kelly engaged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide limited acute care and ICU beds for temporary medical treatment of non-eligible VA individuals to help reduce the strain on Kansas hospitals.

“We are at an inflection point with the omicron variant, and the strain on our hospitals is taking a toll on our health care workers and patients – all while the virus continues to spread rapidly through our communities,” Kelly said.

The Veterans Health Administration facilities are limited and available based on bed availability at time of need and on a case-by-case basis until Feb. 17, 2022.

Since Wednesday, Kansas reported 20,806 new cases of COVID-19, 29 new deaths, and 92 new hospitalizations.

“We are seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases across the state, causing staffing shortages and hospitals to reach capacity. This partnership with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, to accept transfers from Kansas facilities, will help alleviate the stress on our hospitals,” acting KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek said.

Kelly signed a state disaster declaration on Jan. 6 to alleviate hospital staffing shortages along with two executive orders to temporarily suspend certain restrictions and regulations for adult care home and hospital staff.

Friday afternoon, the governor signed legislation enacting those executive orders into law.

“Even though most of our frontline health care workers have received their vaccines, many of them must quarantine with breakthrough cases,” she said. “These quarantines created additional staffing shortages in hospitals and in nursing homes, many of which were already understaffed and overburdened.”