Wright-Patt returns to stringent health protection condition as COVID cases increase in region

Airman 1st Class Matthew Neimi of the 88th Security Forces Squadron scans the ID card of a retiree at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base last March. Under new Defense Department guidelines, masks and face coverings must be worn upon installation entry but lowered briefly for identification purposes. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/TY GREENLEES

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Airman 1st Class Matthew Neimi of the 88th Security Forces Squadron scans the ID card of a retiree at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base last March. Under new Defense Department guidelines, masks and face coverings must be worn upon installation entry but lowered briefly for identification purposes. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/TY GREENLEES

With state and regional COVID-19 case numbers rising, leaders of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are expressing new concerns, returning the installation to more stringent health protection condition “Bravo.”

Mask-wearing remains optional, and a public health emergency was not declared. But there will be mandatory weekly “screening” for employees who have not received COVID-19 vaccinations, the base said in a Sunday Facebook message.

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Reflecting the latest Department of Defense policies, “Bravo” will look different this time, the base noted.

“COVID-19 screening testing is required at least weekly for base employees who are not fully vaccinated, including those who have an exemption request under review or who are exempted from COVID-19 vaccinations prior to entering a DOD facility (which includes leased space),” Wright-Patterson said.

The base is also shifting to less than 80 percent of normal occupancy in workplaces. The base said that can be achieved through telework, remote work, flexible scheduling or other ways — methods that have become familiar to thousands of Wright-Patterson employees since the spring of 2020.

The based moved to HPCON “Alpha,” its previous level, in April. “Alpha” is the DOD’s lowest level of health vigilance.

“When you look at the mission side, all right, obviously the last two years have been dominated by COVID,” 88th Air Base Wing commander Col. Patrick Miller said in a video placed on the base’s Facebook page Tuesday. “And that’s given us some amazing opportunities. You look at how we’ve had to navigate the installation, the community, through the different HPCON (Health Protection Condition) levels, going from no vaccines, to vaccines available, to vaccine distribution, issuing the second most vaccines in the United States Air Force.”

Miller will hand the Air Base Wing command flag to Col. Christopher Meeker in a change-of-command ceremony Thursday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Miller’s next assignment will take him to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where he will be director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection at the headquarters of the Pacific Air Forces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID tracker Tuesday, Montgomery County has a case rate of 176.2 per population of 100,000, which the CDC rates as “medium” severity.

In Greene County, where Wright-Patterson is located, the CDC case rate was put at 184.09 per 100,000 population, also rated as “medium” severity.

An average of 2,461 COVID-19 cases per day were reported in Ohio in the past week or so, according to a state data. Cases have increased by 7 percent from the average two weeks ago.

When state COVID metrics were last updated June 30, Ohio reported a three-week trend of 16,169 to 17,225 COVID cases.

Before the pandemic, Wright-Patterson was the professional home of more than 30,000 military and civilian employees, making it Ohio’s largest employer in one location. Many of those workers have returned to the base in recent weeks.

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