WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – As state governments around the country begin to allow businesses and other facilities to reopen as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Wright-Patterson personnel will also begin a phased approach to returning to their work centers.
Col. Tom Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, announced May 8 that Wright-Patterson AFB would begin entering Phase I of the base Return to Full Capacity plan for the reconstitution of base operations during the week of May 18.
The plan applies to all base organizations and personnel assigned at Wright-Patterson, according to details provided to the base in an email sent by Sherman.
During Phase I, commanders and directors are authorized to bring up to 20% of their assigned workforce back to their work centers to complete mission essential tasks. Base officials anticipate this will be about a 3,000 – 4,000-person increase in on-base presence.
With maximum emphasis on the safety of all personnel the priority, commanders are being asked to begin slowly by bringing smaller numbers of personnel back to work on base, while continuing to maximize the use of telework capabilities when possible.
Wright-Patterson AFB COVID-19 Incident Command Center officials also provided additional details for base organizations regarding Phase I operations:
1. Commanders and directors are encouraged to utilize shift modifications such as grouping smaller-sized teams into cohorts. For example, a portion of personnel from a work center can work a week on base, then telework for two weeks before returning. This would provide 14 days between when they were last on base before they return in case symptoms would arise with one of the employees. The supervisor could then quarantine that small cohorted group instead of doing a significant amount of contact tracing with Public Health officials to determine the full magnitude of everyone that was involved. It is also recommended to not have overlapping shifts of cohorts to avoid a larger exposure that could impact mission capability.
2. Stagger arrival/lunch/departure times, etc.). Staggered arrival, departure, lunch and break times will also help lessen the chance of increasing the number of positive cases in our work centers by lowering the number of people in close proximity to each other as we begin to move about in our work areas.
3. Employees considered part of a vulnerable population should continue to stay home and utilize telework options as appropriate. Those employees providing a mission essential function should consult with their physician and supervisor for further guidance.
4. Base personnel are reminded to continue social distancing practices of wearing of face coverings, handwashing, hygiene & sanitation of workspaces.
5. Organizations are asked to limit the size of in-person meetings to less than 10 people. In fact, the use of virtual meetings is encouraged when possible.
6. Common use areas that do not allow for appropriate social distancing should be closed or strictly monitored.
7. Another option is to limit the amount of time actually spent on base. Employees can come in for the minimum time required to complete essential tasks and then finish the remainder of their tour of duty for that day via telework.
8. If you are sick, do not come to work.
9. Cleaning materials and products will be on hand prior to employees returning to work. Organizations must also have an established cleaning/disinfecting plan.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment that gives our mission partners the greatest flexibility while reinforcing care and health for all of our employees,” said Sherman. “Furthermore, we want everyone to feel confident and comfortable with the tremendous efforts of all involved in the planning for this transition into Phase 1.”
“Finally, as we increase our ‘footprint,’ we will also be adjusting our base services to support those returning to the installation. We want to make sure that everything from child care, to base entry points, to food services are providing the appropriate amount of support for the population.”
Col. Sherman added that this is a process that will evolve or regress depending on the health conditions around us.
Officials at the Incident Command Center work closely with the base Emergency Operations Center and Crisis Action team, as well as mission commanders across the installation to monitor the public health situation daily.
“We will reevaluate and monitor what is currently happening and advise commanders on their capability plans as they move forward. We are also trying to ensure that we don’t have a rebound or initiate our own second wave of positive cases in regard to the number of personnel coming onto the installation,” said Jacob King of the base COVID-19 Incident Command Center.
Tune in to the 88th Air Base Wing commander’s weekly Facebook Live town hall with Col. Sherman and senior members of his staff at www.facebook.com/wpafb on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. for the latest updates and to let Col. Sherman hear from you. Those with questions may submit them to the 88th Public Affairs office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also stay up to speed with the latest COVID-19 information on Wright-Patterson’s website at www.wpafb.af.mil/coronavirus.