THULE AIR BASE, Greenland --
The 821st Support Squadron received its first COVID-19 testing machine at Thule Air Base, Greenland on Oct. 29, 2020.
There was not an efficient way to test for the virus before receiving the machine, presenting limitations on operational factors such as the time required for restriction of movement for inbound and outbound staff or to confirm whether someone was infected in a timely manner.
“We can now confirm if someone has COVID-19 whereas in the past it was all based on symptoms and speculation,” said Tech. Sgt. Josue Diaz, 821st Support Squadron medical operations flight chief. “It is a huge success for our remote location to be able to test locally.”
The device is similar to COVID-19 testing machines used in urgent care facilities and can provide results in 45 minutes or less. Using the machine is as simple as obtaining a swab specimen, transferring the sample to a cartridge and inserting the cartridge into the machine.
“ person [who tests positive] will be isolated in their living quarters and closely monitored by medical staff,” Diaz said. “If conditions worsen, the individual would be put on a ventilator at the clinic and possibly transferred to a state side medical facility or Copenhagen, Denmark.”
Previously, tests were only given to Danish contractors on the installation and had to be sent to a lab in Copenhagen, Denmark – which caused a delay in results. The new machine allows active duty personnel on the remote base to also receive a test.
“Thule [was] one of the last places within [the Department of Defense] who did not have testing capabilities,” Capt. Tyler Maxwell, 21st Medical Logistics Flight commander. “Having these capabilities in-house is much more time efficient and more reliable, as uncontrolled external factors associated with logistical constraints are eliminated.”
Despite the device belonging to the Air Force, medical group leadership decided it would be best if it is used for more than just active duty troops.
“With the machine in place, Thule is in a good position to provide local support,” Diaz said. “Any contractor who has access to our base will be able get tested.”