WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — On the same day that emergency coronavirus pandemic restrictions expired across the state, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base announced that the installation will transition its pandemic threat level to Health Protection Condition (HPCon) Alpha. The decision to do so is based on the “steady decline” of new cases of COVID-19 in Ohio during the past six weeks, according to installation officials.
In a coronavirus town hall Wednesday, Col. Patrick Miller, Commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, said that under HPCon Alpha, work centers can now bring 100 percent of their workforce back on base.
Cases and deaths in the United States have dropped to their lowest points in nearly a year, Col. (Dr.) Michael Crowder said. Additionally, 62.8 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Wright-Patterson averaged less than one case per day for the entire month of May, officials said, down from three cases per day in April. Approximately 63 percent of the active duty population and 43 percent of the base population have received at least one COVID vaccination.
The commander did acknowledge that the transition back to on-base work may be a “weird period” for many.
“We’re not just welcoming new people into Wright-Patt this summer, or saying farewell to teammates,” Miller said. “There’s some people who have been here for a year, but have never seen their teammates, or seen them face-to-face.”
Wright-Patt is still under a pre-existing public health emergency and a continuity of operations plan until June 30. However, Miller said he does not plan to renew the public health emergency at the end of the month, as long as pandemic numbers keep trending in a positive direction. Though work centers can bring all their employees back on base, the option to telework, for those that have the ability to do so, is currently still in play.
“The gap between now and then [June 30] gives leaders some space and time to work through any telework questions that are out there,” Miller said.
The state’s health orders expired on June 2. Being a federal installation, airmen have to abide by different guidelines, mandated by the Department of Defense. For this reason, non-vaccinated personnel are still required to wear masks on base and in federal buildings. Facilities of the 88th Medical Group will still require facial coverings.
The medical center is still administering Pfizer vaccines, though it is no longer limited by supply.
“This isn’t a declaration of victory,” Miller said. “The coronavirus is still here. This is a recognition of the ground we gained back.”
The 88th Medical group has issued 244,245 vaccinations to date, and 11,584 people have been fully vaccinated through the 88th MDG. This doesn’t include those who may have gotten their vaccination through a community source, according to Col. (Dr.) Christian Lyons.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.