Col. Tom Sherman, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. FILE

Coronavirus: Wright-Patt forms command center to fight COVID-19

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has formed a COVID-19 Incident Command Center (ICC), the base said Wednesday.

Led by Lt. Col. (Dr.) Hui Ling Li, the base public health officer, and advised by base Fire Chief Jacob King, the ICC is made up of subject matter experts from several areas of responsibility who will work with base decision-makers.

The base has declared a state of public health emergency and given unit commanders the latitude to let employees work from home if they can.

The base has also confirmed three cases of coronavirus so far.

“The Incident Command Center will enable our installation to be more effective in managing this public health emergency through a unified command and control structure,” Li said in a base release. “It will help us better coordinate efforts and manage resources among all base organizations, local, state, and national partners.”

In a Facebook town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon, Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing commander, said base leaders continue to work with local, state and federal governments.

“I believe we are in lockstep,” Sherman said.

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Wednesday’s virtual meeting was the third meeting for base leaders dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission commanders are empowered to decide who must come in and who should stay home, Sherman emphasized, and his 88th Air Base Wing — the unit that serves as Wright-Patterson’s landlord — has reduced its own footprint, he said.

“We believed we reached a level where the public health emergency was necessary and prudent for us,” Sherman said.

But the colonel also emphasized: “We are not closing the base.”

“The defense of this nation must continue to take place,” he said.

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Four base traffic gates remain open, due primarily to decreased traffic. The base commissary and base exchange are open but have different hours.

Col. Michael Foutch, the 88th Medical Group commander, reminded viewers on Facebook this week that the base Medical Center curtailed elective procedures, shifting to virtual and telephonic consults for many patients.

Patients and visitors are entering the medical center through the front atrium entrance, with staff entering through another entrance. In both entrances, people are being screened with questions about possible coronavirus symptoms. And drug prescriptions are being filled in a new drive-up regimen.

“This has not been without bumps, but with your help, we’re making great progress,” Foutch said.

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