“What I would ask folks is don’t rush back to Area A,” Miller said.
Airmen from the 88th Medical Group wait on a bus outside Wright-Patterson Medical Center on March 19 as they deploy to Detroit in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s COVID-19 response. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, military and support personnel throughout the country have already administered about 700,000 vaccines, and a single Type 1 team is capable of delivering 6,000. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH
Credit: Wesley Farnsworth
Credit: Wesley Farnsworth
About 120 Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Airmen are being deployed to a coronavirus mass vaccination clinic in Detroit on Friday, March 19, 2021. STAFF / BONNIE MEIBERS
Col. Michael Crowder, the 88th Medical Group’s public health emergency officer, said up to 300 people can be organized outdoors without a waiver and indoor gathering capacity has been raised to 50%, limited by room size, with social distancing among those indoors still expected.
The decision to move to “alpha” was based “on the steady decline of new COVID cases over the past six weeks across Ohio,” the base announced on social media.
For the month of May, the base averaged less than one case per day; down from three cases per day in April, the base said. About 63% of the base’s active duty population and 43% of the base population have received at least one COVID vaccination.
Following Department of Defense guidelines, vaccinated base employees are no longer required to wear face coverings on the installation. There are some locations where masks will continue to be required, and those who have not received the vaccine must continue to wear masks.
Physical distancing and CDC guidelines will continued to be urged, Miller said.
“Just because we’re going back to ‘alpha,’ does not mean we’re going back to the pre-pandemic ... execution,” the commander said.
Military bases have a “health protection condition” or HPCON hierarchy or ranking of conditions.
HPCON 0 is “routine,” meaning the routine maintenance of everyday actions to stop the spread of germs is expected.
With the next condition, “alpha,” workers are expected to routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. If they’re sick, they should call a medical provider for instructions on receiving care before going to a clinic or hospital.
In the earliest weeks of the pandemic, first only essential workers, then just 10 percent of the base’s typical 30,000 workers were permitted to be physically on base.
By May 2020, commanders and directors were allowed to return up to 20% of their assigned workforce to the base.
And by September 2020, the move was made to condition “bravo,” letting commanders bring up to half of their workers to the base, although Miller has continually urged caution.