Wright-Patterson commander weighs move to stricter health condition ‘Delta’

Eyeing rapidly escalating COVID case numbers around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the base commander is weighing a move to a stricter health protection condition, he said in a Facebook town hall Wednesday afternoon.

“To be frank, COVID is kind of kicking our butt right now,” said Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Wright-Patterson.

The large Air Force base continues to see more cases daily, primarily due to the Omicron variant, Miller said.

A move to Delta reflects a situation in which “your area is experiencing severe, widespread community transmission,” according to defense.gov, the U.S. Department of Defense web site.

“Expect to remain at home for extended periods of time as movement in the community may be restricted; at-home isolation or quarantine may be directed,” the DOD web site says. “Follow all directives and guidance from local, state and federal authorities; they are enacted to protect the health and safety of you and your family.”

Miller did not say during the town hall what a move to Delta would mean for the number of workers permitted on the base. But he asked base mission partners to “reassess their posture right now” and weigh what changes they might make to make the base safer.

Miller did not say when he might decide on a move to Delta, but he added: “I would not be surprised if we make this transition soon.”

He reminded viewers on social media that the base remains in a public health emergency and in health protection condition “Charlie,” a less severe level just below Delta.

The base saw 400 new cases from November to December, as tracked by the base public health team, Miller said. “Part of that we can attribute to coming out of Thanksgiving.”

After Christmas, the base is now seeing another rise in cases. How alarming is that rise?

Said Miller: “Alarming enough to make me consider a move to health protection condition Delta.”

The case incident rate threshold for a shift to health protection condition Delta is 420 — 420 cases per 100,000 population across a seven-day period, as tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Miller said.

In June 2021, the base was in health protection condition Alpha, before a progression over the summer and into September to ever more serious Bravo, Bravo-plus and finally Charlie, the current status.

Miller said he is hesitating to shift to Delta, however. While active-duty forces working on Wright-Patterson are about 97% vaccinated and civilian employees are more than 90% vaccinated, Miller said off base, the civilian population is about “54% vaccinated.”

Off base, Miller added, “There are no restrictions.”

COVID-19 patients now make up one-third of all hospitalizations in Ohio, a burden that has health care systems postponing and rescheduling some procedures.

The 6,457 COVID hospitalizations reported Wednesday in Ohio’s hospitals set the seventh consecutive record as coronavirus hospitalizations have increased daily since Christmas. There are 1,324 COVID patients in intensive-care units and 877 on ventilators, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Col. Christian Lyons, commander of the 88th Medical Group, said the Dayton region is seeing its own record of 529 COVID-positive inpatient cases, citing Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association data. And as of Dec. 29, 84% of COVID patients were not vaccinated, Lyons also said.

Staffing strictures and COVID care needs may cause delays in routine medical appointments and elective surgery at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, Lyons also cautioned. Some 60 members of the center’s staff are COVID-positive, he said.

“We ask for your patience and your understanding for our staff and our mission set,” Lyons said.

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