Amherst Town Board Member Shawn A. Lavin, a first lieutenant in the Air National Guard, is on his way to New York City for the next several weeks to assist with that city's response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Lavin is part of the 107th Attack Wing based at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
He and 12 other members of its Fatal Search and Recovery Team were told to report to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where he believes they will work with the city's Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Lavin got a phone call Saturday morning learning of his activation.
— Shawn Lavin (@slavin12) March 23, 2020
Lavin, speaking from a Thruway rest stop, said his unit is bringing military mortuary equipment, personalized protective gear and other materials to help safely collect and store the bodies of victims of the novel coronavirus.
New York City is a national epicenter for the pandemic, and the city's morgues may not be able to handle the expected surge in Covid-19 deaths, Lavin said.
"Your average morgue capacity in a municipality is usually almost at 80% before Covid-19. And then if you're getting a huge spike, you don't have places to put them," Lavin said.
He said his unit is prepared to stay for about a month.
Col. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the New York National Guard, said about 2,000 members of Army and Air National Guard units and other military personnel were called up from across the state to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Some will serve in Western New York.
Lavin said he will try to follow along with the work of the Town Board but he doesn't know how that will fit with his schedule on this mission.
His children are 2½ and 6 months old.
"I just told him, I said, 'Dad has to go to work,' " Lavin said of his oldest, Bennett. "I didn't know what to tell him. I kept it as easy as possible."