Commander defines, refines rhythm for HPCON Delta

  • Published
  • By Caroline Clauson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Two weeks after rising COVID rates pushed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base into Health Protection Condition Delta, 88th Air Base Wing officials interpreted new challenges and protocols in their second Facebook Live COVID-19 situation update this year Jan. 19. 

“We’re taking a deliberative approach to HPCON Delta,” said Col. Patrick Miller, 88 ABW and installation commander. “The goal is to protect the team and execute the mission but also to make sure we are investing in our mental, spiritual and physical well-being.” 

Miller was joined by Maj. (Dr.) Andrew Berglund, a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at the 88th Medical Group; Col. Christian Lyons, 88 MDG commander; and Col. Sirena Morris, 88th Mission Support Group commander.

Local COVID situation

The switch to HPCON Delta was informed by four criteria in surrounding communities: COVID-19 incidence rate, percent-positivity trends, new cases and hospital capacity, Miller said. 

With Montgomery County exceeding the case-number threshold for HPCON Delta over five times at about 2,300 cases per 100,000 people, elevated from the beginning of January, the commander said there’s no clear end in sight yet for the new precautions. 

In fact, all nine counties surrounding the installation meet the criteria for HPCON Delta. 

While the less-severe omicron variant represented just about a third of cases in December, about 75 percent of new cases are tied to it. The delta variant is still responsible for about a quarter of new cases. 

Wright-Patterson AFB alone has seen about 1,300 new COVID-19 cases in January so far, twice December’s previous record high. 

Base officials rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker for state and county statistics, and the Public Health team at WPAFB continues to trace base community data through testing, hospital visits and reports from supervisors. 

Stress on medical personnel, facilities

The COVID-19 uptick continues to overwhelm health care facilities, personnel and supplies, Lyons and Berglund said. 

More than 6,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across Ohio, a reduction of 10 percent from last week but an increase of 29 percent this month. 

Demand for both COVID-19 care and other systemic health conditions persists, and over 160 patients in the area have been boarded in emergency departments because there wasn’t enough space in other facilities. 

Wright-Patterson Medical Center, as well as other local health care networks, continue to postpone elective surgeries when necessary in order to prioritize sick patients. Every surgery, surgical suite capability, bed-space and medical personnel availability are evaluated to stretch resources to cover as many procedure cases as possible. 

COVID-19 itself has hit personnel at the Medical Center, straining resources even more. At one point, 80 percent of hospital personnel had to stay home due to the virus. Recently, COVID kept a more modest 20 to 40 personnel out of service. 

Teams from 88 MDG deploying around the country to support medical facilities hurting even more may also delay care at the base hospital, although no specific services are closed at this time, Lyons said. 

How can you help?

The base community can participate in many “low-effort, high-yield” habits to help relieve stress on hospitals and protect their own health and neighbors, Berglund said. 

“It is serious and dire in our area,” Lyons said. “I cannot reinforce enough to make sure to get your vaccine, make sure to wear a mask, remain physically distanced as much as possible and use good hand hygiene both on and off base to protect you, your families, your co-workers and your friends.”

Personnel should stay home and get tested if they feel sick.

As the demand for testing remains high, 88 MDG officials implored base community members to schedule one for easier and more efficient service rather than opt for a walk-in or drive-in test. Call 937-52-COVID (2-6843) to schedule your test. 

Results may take two to three days, and members can access test results at the TRICARE online portal.

“The current COVID surge will end, and we’ll eventually get through this stage of the pandemic, but we’re not there yet,” Berglund said. “The best way to get through this storm together as one team here at Wright-Patt is to take care of our fellow wingmen and take care of ourselves.”

Fitness centers

After initially restricting fitness center access during HPCON Delta, 88 MSG officials assessed that there was room for more healthy individuals, as instances of infection are much lower in the gyms. Effective Friday, base fitness centers will reopen to family members and civilians. 

Morris reminded patrons to sign in and out for contact tracing, maintain physical distancing, wear a mask while entering the facility and transitioning between equipment, and wipe down machines before and after use. She also encouraged those who could to avoid visiting the fitness center after work, the busiest time. 

Fitness assessments for active-duty personnel are paused but not canceled or exempted. Airmen should always remain ready to test, Morris said. 

ID cards

Effective Monday, all ID card requests will be available as appointment only to enable better physical distancing. 

What to expect 

COVID-19 rates are beginning to fall along the upper rim of Ohio, said Lyons, who estimated that the local area will peak mid-February, perhaps earlier. 

We want to make sure we are keeping folks socially connected but physically distanced and continuing to get after it each and every day,” Miller said. “We continue to make fine-tune adjustments to protect you and the team. I appreciate your patience as we navigate this and adjust fire as we move through this and learn.” 

Stay current on updates

Follow the Wright-Patterson AFB Facebook page @wpafb to stay up to date on base and Medical Center operations. To watch the Jan. 19 Facebook town hall, visit www.facebook.com/WPAFB/videos/978227379570301.

If you have follow-up questions or concerns, email 88abw.pa@us.af.mil or call 937-522-3252.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
5135 Pearson Road, Building 10
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433