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The fight against COVID-19 endures

Computer login screen infographic as a base-wide reminder during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

Computer login screen infographic as a base-wide reminder during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio and across Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has dropped since the beginning of the year, but the fight against this pandemic continues as the delta variant becomes more dominant around the world.

Although the battle has taken a turn for the better, 88th Air Base Wing medical personnel and leadership encourage those within the installation to remain vigilant.

“Because only about 45 percent of the Ohio population is vaccinated, most people in Ohio do not have protection against COVID-19, and the Delta variant, which is 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, is on the rise in the state of Ohio as well,” said Capt. Stephanie Croyle, commander of the 88th Medical Group’s Public Health Flight. “The safety procedures that are in place such as getting tested and isolating when sick, quarantining if identified as a close contact, wearing a mask, and maintaining six feet distancing are still the most important factors for preventing disease spread.”

Croyle also addressed perceptions about those who have been vaccinated, and the lack of effects from COVID-19 symptoms.

“There is a lot of misinformation about vaccinated people and their ability to get symptoms or contract COVID-19,” she said. “Currently, the vaccine is 88 percent effective against acquiring symptoms, and 96 percent effective against getting hospitalized.

“If you believe you have any symptoms, whether or not you have been vaccinated, it is safer to get tested for COVID-19, as there is still a chance a vaccinated person could have COVID and spread the virus. Until this misinformation is corrected, or until more of the population gets vaccinated, we do not want people dropping their guard.”

Col. Patrick Miller, 88 ABW and installation commander, transitioned the installation’s health protection condition to Alpha in early June due to lower cases, but he also encourages teammates, co-workers and family members who qualify to consider the vaccine.

“We are seeing a battle play out between a partially vaccinated population and a variant that very quickly became the dominant lineage in many parts of the world,” he said. “This variant is more contagious, placing unvaccinated people at increased risk.”

The delta variant not only increased new cases from 0.5 percent to 51.7 percent within a few months around the United States, Miller added, it is also responsible for a 38 percent rise in new local cases.

“We are still in the fight, and our proven mitigating measures, coupled with vaccinations, are the best weapons available to keep cases low and control the spread of the delta variant,” he said.

Miller mentioned the following mitigation concepts that need to be reinforced:

  • Fully vaccinated individuals are still able to contract COVID-19; symptoms should not be ignored.
  • If you are symptomatic with a cough, congestion, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, vomiting or other condition, contact your supervisor, do not come into the workplace and get tested for COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated.
  • Testing is quick and easy at the COVID screening test site adjacent to Wright-Patterson Medical Center. Call 937-522-2778 to book an appointment.
  • Continue to physically distance (no less than 6 feet) but remain socially connected. And if not vaccinated, wear your mask in federal facilities and public spaces, especially outside your close family-and-friend bubble.
  • Practice good hygiene.

“Our successes should be celebrated, but remember, the fight is absolutely still on,” Miller said. “The next chapter in the pandemic will be defined by the delta variant, and it is up to all of us how that plays out.”

For those who wish to receive the vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine is still available at the medical center, with all appointments taking place in the allergy and immunizations clinic, located on the first floor of the hospital. Appointments are recommended and can be scheduled by visiting https://informatics-stage.health.mil/WPAFBCOVIDApp/ or by calling 937-257-SHOT (7468).

Those currently eligible to receive vaccinations from the 88 MDG include all TRICARE eligible beneficiaries ages 12 and up, WPAFB active-duty members, and Department of Defense civilians and contractors.