Wright-Patt moves forward in fight against COVID-19

(U.S. Air Force graphic)
(U.S. Air Force graphic)

The effects of the COVID-19 virus is far reaching country-wide. Everyday life has been upended and replaced by a new normal. For now.

On the frontlines of the fight at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are professionals from the 88th Medical Group who work to ensure the workforce is protected and the mission can be executed.

These dedicated doctors and specialists are constantly monitoring the situation inside and outside the installation providing the most up-to-date information to 88th Air Base Wing leadership so informed decisions can be made to best support the Wright-Patterson community.

“We are at a critical time in our fight with the virus,” said. Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Crowder, public health emergency officer. “The steps we take now will have an impact in our battle to keep everyone safe. And there are signs the situation is improving.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took one of the steps July 21 when he mandated a statewide mask mandate.

In a statement, DeWine said the state’s data indicates the rate of increase in new cases has slowed in the high-risk counties where masks are already mandated, and he is cautiously optimistic that things are heading in the right direction.

In his order, DeWine detailed people must wear facial coverings in public at all times when:

· At an indoor location that is not the individuals residence;

· Outdoors, but unable to maintain 6-foot social distance from people who are not household members;

· Waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, such as a taxi, a car service or a private car used for ride-sharing.

There are exclusions to his order, they include:

· Those with a medical condition or a disability or those communicating with someone with a disability;

· Those who are actively exercising or playing sports;

· Those who are officiants at religious services;

· Those who are actively involved in public safety;

· Those who are actively eating or drinking;

The order only requires those 10 years old or older to wear a mask.

Previous amendments to the mandated mask rule also apply to the office environment. The requirement to wear a facial covering or mask does not apply when an individual is alone in an enclosed space, such as an office, or in lieu of an enclosed space, the individual is separated by at least six feet in all directions from other individuals. This does not apply to public spaces.

How does this affect the workforce on base?

“If you are at your desk, you are not required to have a mask, provided you have 6-feet separation from your nearest colleague,” explained Crowder. “If you have a visitor or our visiting someone, you must have a mask on. If you are walking down the hall between offices or on your way to an appointment – you will wear your mask.

“If you are eating lunch with co-workers, family or friends outside of your domiciled group, it is OK to take your face covering down, but you must follow adequate social distancing of six feet during this period,” Crowder added

DeWine also announced a travel advisory for all individuals coming into Ohio from states reporting positive COVID-19 testing rates of 15 percent or higher. Those states currently are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. The Ohio Department of Health Coronavirus website updates these states weekly.

“When individuals return from those locations, they will need to restrict their movement for 14 days or potentially self-quarantine,” said Crowder. “We encourage people on both official and personal travel, to work closely with their leadership and chain of command before departing for one of these locations.”

In addition to wearing of masks, good hygiene and maintaining proper social distancing, Crowder reemphasized a number of recommendations.

* If you are sick, do not come to work on base. If a family member or resident of your household is sick, call your supervisor before coming to base.

* Telework is highly encouraged.

* Modify your work shifts for protection of you and your colleagues.

* Employees considered part of a vulnerable population (65+ and those with underlying health conditions) should continue to stay home and utilize telework options as appropriate. Those employees providing a mission essential function should consult with their physician and supervisor for further guidance.

* Stagger arrival, departure, lunch and break times to lower the number of people in close proximity to each other.

* Limit in-person meetings. Virtual meetings should be the priority.

* Common use areas that do not allow for appropriate social distancing should be closed or strictly monitored.

“None of this is easy,” Crowder said. “It does not feel normal to wear a mask, but it is necessary. The Wright-Patterson community has done really well following the guidance. The keys to our success remain in social distancing, hand washing, proper use of face coverings, physical barriers and limiting in-person meetings and events.”

For the latest information on COVID-19, go to www.wpafb.af.mil/corona or coronavirus.ohio.gov.