WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Up to half of the personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base may return to their in-person, on-site workplaces starting Sept. 21 as the base transitions to Health Protection Condition Bravo, Phase 2 as part of its Return to Full Capacity/Capability Plan responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The base is currently in HPCON Charlie, and Phase 1 has meant the base has been at 20% capacity.
“After careful consideration of the gating criteria, on- and off-base conditions, implemented safety measures to protect the force, and our ability to test, trace, treat and quarantine, I assess we are ready to transition to the next stage,” said Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander.
“As we make this transition, I ask for your support to ensure we don’t lose ground,” he said. “Although we have the right measures in place, COVID-19 continues to influence our way of life. As such, I am keeping the Public Health Emergency declaration in place.”
The commander said he encourages all associated with Wright-Patterson AFB to continue emphasizing the established on- and off-base rules of engagement: mandatory wear of facial coverings; frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer; minimal touching of eyes, nose and mouth; maintaining physical distancing; and perhaps most importantly, staying home if one is not feeling well.
He also encourages individuals to keep track of their schedule and the people they interact with throughout the day to accelerate any needed contract tracing.
“We need you to do your part to keep your teammates safe, to keep you safe, to keep your family safe,” Miller said.
Phase 2 will provide mission partners and supervisors the ability to recalibrate their on-base workforce presence up to 50% and hold meetings and events, both indoors and outdoors, with up to 50 people in attendance, in contrast to 20% and 10 people.
Miller noted, “This flexibility is not a target. … In many cases, you are already getting the mission done in our current posture and may not have to move the needle at all, whereas others who rely on secure space or labs may need to bump above the 50% threshold to accomplish the mission.”
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Crowder, 88th Medical Group, Public Health Emergency officer, said Wright-Patt’s COVID-19 cases and symptoms have been relatively consistent and predictable. Wright-Patt’s number of case transmissions has been extremely low, he said.
“What we are doing on Wright-Patterson is working,” Crowder said, “but we have to be committed to these mitigation factors both on- and off-base all of the time.”
It is important to realize that the upcoming HPCON and phase changes are a “two-way street,” that could be changed back to the higher levels if people don’t continue to observe and implement the mitigation factors, he pointed out.
Crowder addressed “COVID fatigue’s” negative news, changing and confusing recommendations, social isolation, economic hardships and mental health toll. It can result in increased rates of depression and anxiety, substance and domestic abuse, ignoring addressing chronic health conditions, decision making and suicidal ideation.
“What can we do to fight COVID fatigue? Find the good that drives you,” he said. “Find the hobby, relationship, exercise, spirituality you can to lift you up. But keep practicing precautions. The 88th Medical Group is here to serve you,” along with the host of base helping agencies.
Col. Paul Burger, 88th Mission Support Group commander, said, “We are really excited to get more facilities and programs reopened within the 88th Force Support Squadron because we know these are important to you.”
Phase II will enable the following possible adjustments to services. They will be posted on the Wright-Patterson AFB website, Facebook page and across the installation:
· Airman and Family Readiness Center will begin hosting small (up to 15 people), in-person classes; others like the Military Transition Assistance Program will remain online.
· Food operations in facilities will lag as customer demand is evaluated, but the Wingman’s Grill at the Wright-Patt Club will reopen on Oct. 2 for Friday evenings only with proper social distancing and outdoor options. Grab-n-go menus for Airmen will resume.
· Services regarding child development centers and school-age programs will not be adjusted at this time due to staffing constraints (e.g., facility cohorting preventing ability to flex staffing amongst centers, high-risk teammates on weather and safety leave, etc.); however, areas where adjustment of ratios to increase capacity in certain rooms is being evaluated.
· The Youth Center is preparing for a full basketball season starting in December.
· Fitness center usage and patron prioritization are being assessed as dictated by Department of Defense and Air Force Instructions. DAF civilian/total force access to fitness centers is a readiness issue; hopefully access can be opened soon. Usage is being dictated by the need to have 12 feet of distance between patrons.
· The Bowling Center remains closed due to renovations; it may reopen in October.
· The Tennis Club will reopen Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.
· In-person chapel services will resume Oct. 4 with the maximum number of participants allowed.
· HPCON Bravo will enable the Trusted Traveler program to be reinstituted, thus eliminating the need for all passengers to show their IDs.
· HPCON Bravo also means Wright-Patt will transition to a “Green” base and adjust the calculus for determining the need for an Exception to Policy for travel.
· Facial coverings continue to be mandatory at the base commissary, but ID checks will no longer be needed to enter.
· 88th Security Forces Squadron update: Gate hours and the number of gates open will expand soon to pre-COVID levels.
· Military members should note that Military and Family Life consultants are available to provide confidential, no-cost, no-records-kept services as needed to help fight COVID fatigue and issues. The Employee Assistance Program is available for civilians. The School Liaison Office is available to assist with issues related to school and education. Consult https://www.wpafb.af.mil/ for contact information for helping agencies.
Chief Master Sgt. Jason Shaffer, 88 ABW command chief, spoke about resiliency, connecting with others. He said he encourages people to “Stay Fit. Stay Ready. Stay Engaged.”
“We have to stay physically fit. We have to be ready when our number is called,” he said. “Staying engaged is so important to our team, our resiliency and our connectedness.”
“Together we are going to succeed,” Miller said.
That doesn’t mean, however, that HPCON Bravo and Phase 2 are a permanent status, he said.
“HPCON Charlie would resume if there was a massive rise in cases, but we are built to respond to that,” Miller said. "It will not happen if we do the right things.
“This is all about safety and health,” he continued. “We want to protect you, your families and this mission. I appreciate you doing your part to set the conditions to bring us to HPCON Bravo and to roll out Phase 2 of our Return to Full Capacity/Capability Plan on Sept. 21. We are ready to support you. It’s about providing Strength Through Support.”
For more information
For current medical intelligence assessment and a highlight of service changes, visit https://www.wpafb.af.mil/Welcome/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/2115161/facility-operational-status/.
To re-watch the Sept. 16 Facebook Live Town Hall on HPCON Bravo, Phase 2, go to Facebook.com/WPAFB.