Commander acknowledges COVID-19 uptick on Wright-Patt

U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing commander, delivers remarks after accepting command during a change of command ceremony inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, June 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)
U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing commander, delivers remarks after accepting command during a change of command ceremony inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, June 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

But base leader intends to stick with gradual increase of workforce, with precautions

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has seen higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, an increase that reflects similar growth across Ohio and the Dayton area as a whole, the base commander said this week.

But the base remains on track to gradually allow more employees to physically return to the installation in a measured, intelligent way, Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Wright-Patterson, said at a virtual town hall on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.

“I will tell you up front, we’re still in health protection condition ‘Bravo,'” Miller said. “I don’t intend on changing that. We remain in phase two of a return to full capacity. I don’t intend on changing that."

That was a reference to the base’s official status that allows up to half of Wright-Patt’s typical workforce to return to work, an increase that could eventually boost the daily presence on the base to 15,000 or so workers.

Ohio broke its daily coronavirus record for news cases the second straight day on Thursday with 2,425 cases reported.

This is the fifth time the state has broken the daily case record in less than 10 days

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“We’re prepared for this. We still have lots of capacity in our medical center," Miller added, saying the base is seeing an “origination” of cases from outside the base, not on the base.

Miller urged viewers of the virtual town hall to continue to wear facial coverings, maintain safe physical distances and keep their hands clean and sanitized.

“If we start to see a lot of hot spots across the installation ... that would bring us back" to an earlier health protection condition, the colonel cautioned. “But we’re not seeing that.”

Miller instituted condition Bravo last month. He emphasized then — as he emphasized Wednesday — that in no way is returning to 15,000 workers on base a kind of mandate or target.

“That’s not a target, folks," Miller said. “It is still not a target. We don’t intend to get to 50%. That’s not a goal to get to 50%. That’s an ability, based on the mission sets.”

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“There has been a significant uptick of COVID cases, not only at Wright-Patterson but in all of our surrounding counties,” said Dr. Michael Crowder, public health emergency officer at Wright-Patterson.

Ohio’s largest single-site employer, the base has been largely closed down for the past seven months of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with only 10% of the base’s typical 30,000 workers permitted to be physically on base in the pandemic’s earliest weeks.

By May, commanders were allowed to bring up to 20% of their assigned workforce back to Wright-Patterson offices. Most workers continued — and continue — to work from home or elsewhere.

Miller assumed command of the 88th Air Base Wing in June.

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