The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly changing situation. While supporting other government agencies’ response to the COVID-19 threat, the Department of the Air Force is responding appropriately to protect the health of the force and maintain operational readiness.
Air Force Materiel Command leadership is engaged on a daily basis with Headquarters Air Force and members of the health care community for the most current status of the virus and what precautions are required to ensure the health and readiness of our Airmen, Civilian Airmen and families.
For resources and information on staying socially connected during this time, check out the resources on the AF Connect site at https://www.afmc.af.mil/Connect/.
COVID-19 has impacted missions across the command to varying degrees. Our workforce exercised extraordinary creativity to continue critical research and development, acquisition, test, sustainment, logistics, installation and mission support while working from home or in alternate environments.
We execute our wartime mission every day, and the Nation counts on us to execute our mission essential tasks. We’ve been carefully planning how we can best return the workforce to full capacity while minimizing risk so we can more effectively execute our mission essential tasks. COVID-19 forced us to shut down many base services and many workers with conditions that placed them at higher risk remained at home on weather and safety leave. However, some missions were adversely impacted and efficiencies diminished.
As the situation improves, we are preparing to move the command to phased operations, gradually reopen services and Return to Full Capacity in this new environment. These are data-based decisions, not calendar-driven activities. Exactly when and how is determined by the local situation and the unique mission sets. We are working with experts to ensure as we bring the workforce back into the workplace we are taking the appropriate steps to minimize the risk of exposure to our Airmen while balancing mission execution.
In line with CDC guidelines, the Air Force and AFMC is committed to taking every precaution to ensure the health and well-being of our military members, civilian employees, and their families and will continue to implement all measures necessary to mitigate risks to the spread of the disease.
As safety is the primary concern, commanders will decide where mission safety necessitates deviation from this guidance, for example when the cloth face covering could interfere with other facial gear. A cloth covering will not take the place of PPE issued for your job.
We are still enforcing maximum social distancing where possible across our mission set. The use of a cloth face covering does not prevent the wearer from getting sick or eliminate the need to continue the primary mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Any cloth items worn as face coverings (e.g., neck gaiters, neck warmers, balaclavas, etc.) should be functional, cleaned and maintained in compliance with current Air Force instructions and should cover the mouth and nose.
Decision making on moving forward will be data based. Center and installation commanders will evaluate a number of decision criteria including, but not limited to: downward trends of active COVID-19 cases in the local area; adequate PPE, cleaning and disinfection supply stocks on hand; capability to conduct active surveillance for early indications of resurgence on the installation (quickly test, isolate, contact trace and quarantine); and local/regional medical system capacity. Even as we “throttle up” to return workers and reopen services and move to the next phase at a particular location, we must remain vigilant for the possibility of resurgence which could require us to “throttle back” on our plans.
For most workers, they will be required to self-monitor their health daily. If Airmen feel ill or experience any COVID symptoms, they are required to stay at home and notify their supervisor. This is critical to protecting not just a specific Airmen but also the entire workforce. Some facilities such as Child Care Centers and Medical Facility screening may require additional screening measures before entry. A significant risk to the workforce could be posed by having someone with COVID-19, or symptoms, present in the workplace at the current time. The recommendation is that each worker does not come to work when feeling ill. This includes self-monitoring for a fever. If they feel they have a fever, they should take their temperature before coming to work. Since the CDC, as well as state/local health authorities, have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may also measure employees' body temperature. As with all medical information, the fact that an employee had a fever or other symptoms would be subject to ADA confidentiality requirements.
We understand people have anxiety. COVID-19 is a very serious illness and it is changing the way we do our business. In developing the plan, installation commanders are empowered to tailor actions and timing based on the local situation. Rest assured our commanders are taking all the appropriate actions to protect our people and lower the risk and enable us to perform our missions. We will necessarily operate this way until a vaccine is widely available.
Our installation public health teams are building their plans to rapidly react with contact tracing to any worker who becomes ill and is presumptive positive for the illness in coordination with trained augmentation teams and/or supervisors. Workers also have an important responsibility for self-health monitoring and immediately identify if they experience any symptoms to their supervisor. If they feel ill, they must stay at home.
Many at-risk workers such as those with heart conditions, diabetes, and on chemotherapy, have been teleworking, or – if their job cannot be accomplished via telework – have been on administrative weather and safety leave. While we can’t completely eliminate the risk of exposure until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, we’ve taken prudent, precautionary measures to minimize the risk of exposure to our returning workforce. We’re making our decisions on scientific data and the local situation, informed by CDC, State and higher headquarters guidance and our public health professionals.
This legislation provides eligible employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19, effective April 1 through Dec. 31.
In general, there are two components of this legislation:
Specific guidance is available through leadership and supervisory channels.
We still have the responsibility to maintain our grooming and fitness standards to the highest degree possible during these times, however we will be flexible within reason based on the current situation. Any deviation from standards should be accomplished reasonably and should not impede our ability to perform duties, properly and professionally wear uniforms and head gear, nor prevent or obstruct the use of protective and/or safety equipment.
AFMC continues to recruit for, interview candidates and fill positions across the command and has implemented measures to ensure expeditious on-boarding of employees, including:
Hiring officials should work with the supervising HR offices to address any vacancies and hiring needs.
At this time, we continue to encourage telework and will adjust the end date based on Air Force and CDC guidance. Our Airmen continue to execute our critical Air Force missions during this time. While we cannot predict the long term impacts, we need to stay remain cognizant on all of our missions and identify to leadership teams those that may experience significant impacts based on long term COVID-19 restrictions. Leadership is looking at how we transition operations and will determine what new policies may remain, to include telework.
We are carefully monitoring the AFMC mission and supply chain to identify long term impacts of COVID-19. While we do anticipate that there will be some mission impacts, the specifics of these vary as conditions on the ground change.
Air Force Personnel Center and AFMC have been working with your Civilian Personnel Offices to enact temporary virtual in-processing to assist new employees joining our teams. Once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, new employees will be required to report in person to their servicing civilian units to complete any open tasks. Supervisors and employees should reach out to their specific servicing HR teams for further information and guidance.
We will not restrict movement for anyone requiring medical care or access to essential services.Visitors are highly discouraged in accordance with social distancing guidelines. We understand this is a major inconvenience/disruption, but by everyone decreasing our social interactions we are protecting the most vulnerable in our population, the elderly, immunocompromised, or those with chronic medical issues.
Housing Offices obtained commitment from project owners to continue working emergency work orders, and to ensure they are taking appropriate precautions when working with customers and entering homes in all privatized housing communities across the force.
As we carry out our mission amidst the daily challenges associated with COVID-19, it remains essential that we don’t lose sight of our teammates. Everyone should use all available means (i.e. telephone, video capabilities, social media, email, etc.) to ensure we stay socially connected while being physically apart. It’s important that social distancing does not morph into social isolation. Staying connected with one another helps keep us resilient and that’s important through the coming days. If you need help, please reach out. Don’t suffer alone. Call a co-worker, call your leadership. Use your local mental health and Chaplain resources, or call MilitaryOne Source or the Air Force Employee Assistance Program if you are a civilian. We will get through this together and come out stronger on the other end.
The Air Force has taken a number of steps to minimize the impacts of VPN connectivity and network issues on telework. Our IT professionals have made significant improvements over the past few weeks to systems and connectivity. The AF purchased critically needed IT infrastructure to dramatically increase Virtual Private Network connections and similar capabilities, and in the past week there have been many days where the VPN capacity has exceeded demand. A number of remote desktop applications and collaborations tools are now accessible without VPN. As new capabilities are employed, information will be disseminated.
Our goal is to help you to be productive, and we will exploit every tool at our disposal to ensure you can complete your missions.
Every Airman has the responsibility to monitor their health and to follow CDC guidelines for self-monitoring if there is a potential exposure and quarantine if there is active contraction of COVID-19. We have encouraged maximum telework across the command and are limiting the number of personnel on our installations though these policies. In accordance with CDC and Air Force guidance, those individuals who are required to work on base and cannot maintain a minimum social distance of 6 feet must wear a cloth mask to help prevent potential spread. If an emergency Airmen is exposed to the virus, they must follow Public Health and CDC guidelines for social isolation and/or quarantine and limit contact with other family members as much as possible to minimize the risk of spread.
In general, those employees who are high risk and unable to telework have been afforded weather and safety leave. In some instances, however, high risk personnel who are emergency employees may be required to report to the workplace.
To protect our emergency employees, the following precautions are in place:
In the past, there have been rather broad interpretations as to what constitutes mission essential, with people generally using the terms “mission essential,” “mission critical,” “key” and “emergency essential” interchangeably and for the most part utilizing when talking about who reports to an installation on snow days. Obviously, what we are facing now is far more complex.
In their direction on reporting to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Headquarters Air Force have consistently used the term emergency employee, meaning employees whose duties are critical to agency operations and may also be referred to as “mission essential” or “mission critical.” As these functions enable a unit to provide vital services, exercise civil authority, maintain the safety of the general public, and sustain the industrial/economic base during disruption of normal operations, civilians performing these tasks may be required to report to the work site, even during a National Emergency.
These employees have technical skills that are required by organizations for continued operations of our installations and the AFMC, Air Force and DoD mission. There are no standard definitions or categories in regard to essential or emergency employee determinations; instead, they are based on the organization's unique mission requirements and/or circumstances and may even vary according to the particular nature of an exigency. However, some examples of emergency employees who may be required to physically report for duty to ensure the continued operation of critical activities include, firefighters, health care providers, our depot employees, various civilian engineering journeyman, flight operations, critical test support and intelligence specialists.
Our installation commanders are empowered to determine what they consider mission essential and emergency employees because they have the best sight picture of what is happening on the ground and in your communities. Balancing the accomplishment of our essential AFMC mission requirements, while also ensuring the protection of our civilian Airmen, is something we don’t take lightly. The command is working closely with program offices and leadership teams at the installations to understand the specific mission essential priorities and are carefully weighing the risks to personnel with our need to ensure Air Force mission readiness. Each decision is carefully considered with health and safety requirements to ensure the safety of our Airmen.
For overall information on the Air Force response and to view a comprehensive list of resources, visit the Air Force COVID-19 feature page. For location and base specific information, including the phased return to full capacity, please visit the sites below and follow along on social media.
Arnold Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Eglin Air Force Base
Hanscom Air Force Base
Hill Air Force Base
Kirtland Air Force Base
Robins Air Force Base
Scott Air Force Base
Tinker Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Face Covering Facts and How-to Guidance