Wright-Patt gatherings will be restricted from 50 people to 10

Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base installation commander, visits with John Corbet, a U.S. Marine veteran who saw combat during the Korean War, following the Centerville Veterans Day observance Nov. 11. Corbet is a Centerville resident and attended the event where Miller was the feature speaker. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/R.J. ORIEZ
Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base installation commander, visits with John Corbet, a U.S. Marine veteran who saw combat during the Korean War, following the Centerville Veterans Day observance Nov. 11. Corbet is a Centerville resident and attended the event where Miller was the feature speaker. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/R.J. ORIEZ

Commander urges vigilance in fight against ‘our enemy of the day’

Wright-Patterson Air Force is keeping its COVID-19 cases low relative to the surging number of cases off base, and the base commander urged airmen Monday to double down on precautions against the virus

Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Wright-Patterson, held fast Monday to “health care protection condition Bravo,” the base’s current status, which lets mission commanders and managers eventually boost the base’s daily workforce presence about 15,000 workers — about half of the base’s typical pre-COVID work population.

“I am comfortable staying in heath care protection condition bravo," Miller said in a virtual townhall Monday. “But I’ll be honest, folks, we may not be here for long, if we can’t change the behavior of what we’re seeing off the installation."

ExploreCommander acknowledges COVID-19 uptick on Wright-Patt

“We continue to see the majority of our cases, as they continue to rise, with transmissions originating off the installation,” Miller said. “That may be you going to see a loved one who is COVID-positive."

While remaining at condition Bravo, Miller reemphasized mandatory face coverings, social distancing and other practices.

He also said on-base gatherings will be restricted from 50 people to 10.

“One of the things I’m implementing is, as installation commander is, on the installation, gatherings will be restricted back down from 50 to 10,” Miller said. “Whether you’re inside or outside, gatherings will be restricted to 10 or less people.”

Ohio’s largest single-site employer, Wright-Patterson has been largely closed down to on-site work for the past eight 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, mission commanders were allowed to bring up to 20% of their assigned workforce back to base offices. Most workers continued — and continue, to this day — to work from home or elsewhere.

In mid-June, when Miller was named base commander, there were about 430-plus daily Ohio cases of COVID, he observed.

On Monday, Ohio surpassed 300,000 total cases of coronavirus after reporting 7,268 new daily cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“That’s a far cry from the 400-plus cases just five months ago,” Miller said.

Why the increase? Miller and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Crowder, the base’s public health emergency officer, pointed to cooler temperatures, people spending more time inside — and COVID fatigue.

Crowder told listeners that all counties surrounding the base are “red,” indicating high community exposure everywhere.

“The percentage of positive cases tested on Wright-Patterson is very low compared to our outside communities,” Crowder said. “It’s about three or four times lower than our outside communities.”

“We’re starting to get a little bit complacent," Miller said. “We want to get our lives back to normal. We want to go to those big events, those large gatherings.”

That “complacency” has enabled COVID — which Miller called “our enemy of the day” — “to creep into our lives and come at us full-force, in a tidal wave, if you will.”

The colonel also stressed the imperative to minimize gatherings and social gatherings. The Air Base Wing has pushed back a “mayors and managers” gathering, and the wing will not be having a pot luck meal next week, he said.

Said Miller, “Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s up to us to set the example.”

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