Wright-Patterson Air Force Base declared a public health emergency Monday afternoon, with a focus on a mission-essential footing and a new traffic entry regimen, said the commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, the unit that serves as the landlord of the sprawling base.
The change meant that thousands of Air Force civilian and military employees were working from home.
“Things are going to be changing here as we collectively fight this thing,” Col. Thomas Sherman said in a video on social media.
The base’s Area B normally has three gates open. Area A normally has four open gates.
But the base was leaving four gates open and closing three.
Gate 1A, the commissary gate, was to remain open, as was gate 12A, the gate leading to Air Force Materiel Command headquarters. Gate 19B, the National Road gate, will also remain open, as will the commercial delivery gate, gate 26A
The commissary, base exchange and base gas stations will stay open.
There have been no indications of any traffic issues so far, base spokesman Jim Mitchell said midday Tuesday.
Mitchell said it was not possible to estimate how many of the base’s approximately 30,000 workers were working from home.
“That’s going to be impossible to estimate – we have over 100 different units on the base and they are all implementing according to their organizational policy,” he said.
Mission-essential personnel will focus on their Air Force missions while minimizing their footprint to just what is absolutely necessary at the base, he said.
“We are going to maintain our very robust telework network,” Sherman said. “Our commanders have been empowered with the ability to work with civilian personnel issues, such as leave, such as wellness leave and efforts that need to go to maintain our communities.”
Wright-Patterson Medical Center is also making changes. The center will focus on emergency care and urgent care only. Care that will continue includes pregnancy and cancer care that has been ongoing, infancy and other critical care that providers feel should be continued. Other care will be provided over the telephone, Sherman said.
“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” Sherman said.
The base is the state’s largest single-site employer, with some 30,000 military and civilian employees on a typical work day.