WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - In response to the current climate and hard work to regain ground in the COVID-19 battle, the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander has directed the health protection condition upgrade to Alpha for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The action, effective at 8 a.m. June 2, recognizes the drop in new cases across the state and local area for the past six weeks. The incident rates have not been this low since last July.
“We are making great progress,” Col. Patrick Miller said during a June 2 Facebook Live town hall. “Our shift aligns us with our state partners — it’s a recognition of the tremendous effort to date.”
“We can’t let up for a second in this fight. In the event things worsen over the summer, we are postured to shift back to HPCON Bravo. The key to us staying in Alpha will be our steadfast commitment to the basic principles that got us to this point — masks, distance, hygiene and vaccinations.”
Miller addressed what the change means to the base. He was joined by Col. (Dr.) Michael Crowder, the installation’s public health emergency officer; Col. Christian Lyons, 88th Medical Group commander; and Col. Paul Burger, 88th Mission Support Group commander.
Base public health officials said the change is prudent, given recent measures taken by Ohio and the surrounding four counties, as well as the installation’s steady decline and low plateau of incidence rates and new cases.
“We continue to see a decrease in cases, hospitalizations, ICU cases and COVID-related deaths,” Crowder said.
In addition to COVID-related visits, Wright-Patterson Medical Center is available for regular wellness exams, routine screenings, and treatment of acute and chronic conditions, Crowder added.
The Public Health Emergency and Continuity of Operations Plan will remain in effect and expire June 30.
Lyons said the base has issued more than 24,000 vaccinations, making Wright-Patterson AFB second in the Air Force for highest number of vaccines administered.
“We are committed to providing trusted care to you and your families,” he said.
Vaccines remain voluntary at this time. To make an appointment, call 937-257-SHOT or visit https://informatics-stage.health.mil/WPAFBCOVIDApp/.
Mission Support Group
According to Burger, WPAFB is transitioning to near pre-pandemic service levels. He provided updates to the operations of Child and Youth Programs, fitness centers, gate traffic, the commissary, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and food services.
Transitioning to Alpha allows work centers to bring back up to 100% of personnel. Unit commanders are responsible for ensuring workforce safety and mission operation needs when determining capacity.
In addition, wing leadership is working to define what HPCON Alpha means for installation services and operations. Adjustments will have to be made across the base to include traffic, custodial and food operations.
Miller said the installation mask policy will remain in place and follow Department of Defense guidance.
“Current guidance requires masks for non-vaccinated personnel,” he said. “Masks will be required for everyone (vaccinated and non-vaccinated personnel) in certain customer service areas, the Medical Center and our Child and Youth Programs.” He recommends people have a mask on them at all times to avoid frustration.
Local commanders and directors have the authority to determine if mask wear is still a requirement in their workspace, even if an individual is vaccinated, Miller added. Units will continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene practices.
Guidance on events and gatherings is being updated and will be communicated.
When will people get back to the office?
Individual work centers will decide when to bring their personnel back to the office.
“We are working closely with all mission partners,” Miller said. “We are cautioning folks on Area A about bringing people back before June 17 as Gate 15A is closed for construction. To avoid additional traffic delays, we are encouraging units to wait until the gate is reopened.”
Commanders and supervisors are strongly encouraged to continue maximizing telework flexibilities for employees who self-identify as being at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19, or as a member of special populations, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Leaders are also strongly encouraged to continue utilization of telework wherever they recognize opportunities to leverage increased capabilities in moving toward a new, post-pandemic normal in support of increasing workforce efficiency, emergency preparedness and quality of life, as well as realize potential benefits in recruitment and retention strategies and infrastructure cost savings.
“It is very exciting we are seeing this great progress, but there is still work to do,” Miller said.
“We will continue to follow Department of Defense and Air Force guidance, in conjunction with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local health officials, and their servicing health and safety professionals, and in consultation with their servicing Civilian Personnel Section and legal office.”
This isn’t a “declaration of victory,” the installation commander emphasized.
“The coronavirus is still here and remains a threat,” he said. “The transition to HPCON Alpha is in recognition of the ground we’ve gained back and validation of the processes we have in place.”
An updated hours of operation list is forthcoming and will be available at www.wpafb.af.mil/.
To watch the June 2 town hall, go to the 88th Air Base Wing Facebook at https://fb.watch/5UxQWZ21F8/. A recording is also available at https://dvidshub.net/r/mt82pz.
If you have follow-up questions or concerns, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-522-3252.