HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom Air Force Base has developed a plan for a gradual and measured return to full capacity that will allow more employees – though by no means all – to return to work on base, possibly within the next several weeks. The installation would also bring more of its facilities and services back on line, consistent with federal and state guidelines.
The base itself never closed, nor has mission work been suspended. The phased return to full capacity, therefore, should not be viewed as a “reopening,” base officials note.
Hanscom plans to follow a cautions, multi-phased approach designed to prioritize health and safety. In general, the phasing follows a trailing approach to the Massachusetts phasing plan, ensuring that covid statistics do not trend higher as a result of actions taken by other entities.
In the current Phase 1, labeled ‘Start,’ only mission-essential workers with a clear need to work on base are doing so. In addition, most in-person services have remain halted or significantly curtailed. However, a few facilities, such as the golf course, that could be safely reopened have been, and base leaders are earnestly planning follow-on phases.
During the next phase, labeled 2A or ‘Cautious,’ more workers whose mission accomplishment requires onsite work will be allowed to return to the base. Employees who fit into that category will be notified by their supervisors. No one should return to base to work unless that occurs, officials emphasize.
In addition, some facilities will be reopened and some suspended services will be resumed to meet the increasing need. That will occur under strict health and safety guidelines that will include such things as physical distancing, use of facial coverings and enhanced cleaning. If at any point such measures can’t be maintained or are deemed by Public Health or the installation commander to be insufficient, a return to Phase I conditions may be required.
“We’re going to do this slowly and safely,” said Col. Chad Ellsworth, installation commander. “We are not flinging the doors open and returning to where we were before entering this epidemic. We intend to move gradually and cautiously through these phases, allowing our decisions to be guided by state, local and base-specific data. If at any point the numbers indicate that we’ve moved too far too fast, or that people are not adhering to stipulated operating conditions, we will reinstate tighter controls.”
Once the base has been operating safely in Phase 2A for some time and assuming covid numbers and other health metrics continue trending the right way, Hanscom will enter Phase 2B, also being called the ‘Vigilance’ phase. At that point more – but still not all – workers will be permitted to return to the base and more services will open or operate more fully.
The final phase, 3 or ‘New Normal,’ will only come into play once a vaccine or sufficient remedies have been put in place. And even then, the new normal will not look like the old normal, officials say. More routine use of telework should be expected, and certain operating and workplace hygiene protocols will remain in place.