WPAFB moves to HPCON Delta

U.S. AIR FORCE GRAPHIC/DAVID CLINGERMAN

Combined ShapeCaption
U.S. AIR FORCE GRAPHIC/DAVID CLINGERMAN

Rising COVID-19 cases in region drive change

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base transitioned to Health Protection Condition Delta on Jan. 7, with a public health emergency in effect, due to rising numbers of confirmed COVID-19 “omicron” cases.

“The Airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are our No. 1 priority, and we take every precaution necessary to protect their health and safety,” said Col. Patrick Miller, the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander.

According to Miller, the transition is done in accordance with the secretary of defense’s April 21 memo titled “Guidance for Commanders’ Risk-Based Responses and Implementation of the Health Protection Condition Framework during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic.” Those conditions are all community based and include case-incidence rate and trajectory, percent-positivity track and medical facility capacity.

The HPCON Delta declaration refocuses the base on its safety protocols and precautions and emphasizes the situation’s seriousness, officials said.

Decision factors

Case-incidence rate — According to current data, the 13 counties around WPAFB continue to have COVID-19 cases in the severe range with widespread community transmission. The Department of Defense considers this to be greater than 420 cumulative new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days. All surrounding counties exceed that benchmark and continue to climb.

Case trajectory — WPAFB has seen a steady increase both on and off base, according to 88th Medical Group officials and local data. This does not indicate on-base transmission, just the percent positivity for those showing up at the base testing site. There have been no hot spots of source transmission on base.

Medical facilities — According to the most recent Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association data, there are 6,257 COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients statewide, which surpassed the previous high of 5,308 patients on Dec. 15, 2020. COVID-19-positive hospitalizations have increased 19% in the last seven days and 54% in the last 30 days.

The situation is compounded by staffing shortages due to stress, exhaustion and medical staff COVID cases resulting in the inability to receive patients, Miller said.

“We are not immune to this problem, either,” he added. “Over the holidays, Wright-Patterson Medical Center closed its Laser Eye Care Center due to COVID concerns.”

Combined ShapeCaption
U.S. AIR FORCE GRAPHIC/DAVID CLINGERMAN

U.S. AIR FORCE GRAPHIC/DAVID CLINGERMAN

Combined ShapeCaption
U.S. AIR FORCE GRAPHIC/DAVID CLINGERMAN

What HPCON Delta looks like around Wright-Patterson AFB?

Miller said not much will be different: “We are doing all the right things on base, as proven by very little on-base transmission.”

The following changes went into effect Jan. 10:

· Child and Youth Services and Child Development Centers: No change to services. CYS and CDCs will remain open to care for Airmen’s children while they support the mission. However, if parents want to pull their children during this period, WPAFB will not bill them for a slot while in HPCON Delta.

· Many customer-service functions shifted to appointment only or virtual; a front-counter presence will be maintained for walk-ins.

· Most training or professional-development seminars and events are now virtual, reduced in size or moved to a hybrid model.

· Food operations are carry-out, with a few exceptions. However, on-base dining facilities remain open for meal cardholders and temporary-duty personnel.

· 88th Force Support Squadron activities have reduced capacity at various locations.

· Fitness centers limited to military members only.

· Fitness assessments are on pause during HPCON Delta.

· Chapel services are virtual only — no in-person services.

· Commissary remains open for DOD ID cardholders only — no guests.

· On-base capacity: Per Office of the Secretary of Defense, HPCON Delta drives occupancy down to 15%. The target for in-person meetings and gatherings in HPCON Delta should be 10 personnel or less.

· Teleworking should be continued and maximized on base during HPCON Delta.

Miller reiterated he is not looking to close the base down as much has been learned about how to safely execute the mission in the past two years. Because of this, the following will remain open on base, some with smaller capacity:

· Airman’s Attic

· Base Commissary

· Base Exchange

· Base Theater

· Kitty Hawk Bowling Alley

· National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

· Thrift Shop

· USO Center

There are no service limitations at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, 88 MDG officials said. However, the hospital is closed Jan. 14 for Air Force Materiel Command’s Family Day and Jan. 17 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Currently, there are no off-base or annual leave travel restrictions for active-duty military and civilian personnel.

Stay mission-ready

The best way for teammates and family members to stay mission-ready is to get vaccinated, Miller reemphasized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, booster shots are highly encouraged as the efficacy of various vaccinations wane over time and vary by type.

Wright-Patterson Medical Center continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations for active-duty members, TRICARE beneficiaries ages 5 and up, and all WPAFB employees. To make an appointment, call 937-257-SHOT (7468) or visit https://informatics-stage.health.mil/COVAX/.

“This is a position I never expected to be in, but we are here,” Miller said. “I wish I could control the triggers, but they are based on our surrounding community, not on the great things we are doing on the base. Omicron is burning through fast. We simply need to buckle down for a few weeks to protect ourselves, our families and teammates, and our various mission sets.

“Services may be a bit slower over the coming weeks due to our new posture, but we are still committed to providing you ‘Strength through support.’ Thank you for your continued service and sacrifice in the defense of our nation.”

To watch the video announcing the HPCON change, visit www.facebook.com/WPAFB or https://go.usa.gov/xtgC8.

About the Author