Wright-Patterson changes to stricter health protection condition

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said Friday it’s transitioning to a stricter health protection condition because of the large spread of COVID-19 in the community and increased cases in hospitalizations.

“...Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has transitioned to health protection condition Delta; with a public health emergency in effect,” the base said in a Facebook message.

The HPCON Delta declaration refocuses the base on its safety protocols and precautions and emphasizes the situation’s seriousness, officials said.

“Our goal is to provide a safe, healthy environment for our Airmen and their families,” said Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander. “Here at Wright-Patt, we are doing all the right things on base by our lack of any significant transmission hot spots.

“We have already been actively practicing many of those HPCON Delta measures such as declaration of a public health emergency, wearing facial coverings, maintaining physical distancing, and screening testing,” Miller also said. “I am asking teammates to maintain vigilant in practicing personal hygiene measures, physical distancing, wearing masks and minimizing in-person social gathering and time spent in crowded environments.”

What does HPCON D look like for WPAFB?

According to Miller, not much will change: “We are doing all the right things on base, as proven by very little on-base transmission,” he said.

The following changes will go into effect Jan. 10:

  • Child and Youth Services and Child Development Centers: No change to services. CYS and CDCs will remain open to care for Airmen’s children while they support the mission. However, if parents want to pull their children during this period, WPAFB will not bill them for their slot while in HPCON Delta.
  • Many customer-service functions will shift to appointment only or virtual; a front-counter presence will be maintained for walk-ins.
  • Most training or professional-development seminars and events will shift to virtual, reduce in size or move to a hybrid model.
  • Food operations will go to carry-out with a few exceptions. However, on-base dining facilities will remain open for meal cardholders and temporary-duty personnel.
  • 88th Force Support Squadron activities will have reduced capacity at various locations.
  • Fitness centers will be limited to military members only.
  • Fitness assessments will be on pause during HPCON Delta.
  • Chapel services will be virtual only – no in-person services.
  • Commissary will remain open for DOD ID cardholders only – no guests.
  • On-base capacity: Per Office of the Secretary of Defense, HPCON Delta drives occupancy down to 15%. The target for in-person meetings and gatherings in HPCON Delta should be 10 personnel or less.
  • Teleworking should be continued and maximized on base during HPCON Delta.

Miller reiterated he is not looking to close the base down as much has been learned about how to safely execute the mission in the past two years.

At this time, there will be no service limitations to Wright-Patterson Medical Center’s operations.

Currently, there are no off-base or annual leave travel restrictions for or active military and civilian personnel.

There were 19,563 new coronavirus cases reported in the state on Friday, which brings the 21-day case average to 15,355, the Ohio Department of Health reported.

COVID patients make up one-third of all hospitalizations across the state and represent one-third of all ICU patients.

There were 6,570 coronavirus patients in Ohio’s hospitals Friday, up from 6,550 the day before. Of those, 1,327 are receiving intensive care.

At Kettering Health and Premier Health hospitals, 89% of COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated, according to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.

Col. Christian Lyons, commander of the 88th Medical Group at the base, said in a Facebook town hall streaming event Wednesday afternoon that the Dayton region was then seeing a 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 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 Wednesday. Some 60 members of the center’s staff are COVID-positive, he said then.

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

About a thousand Ohio National Guard members will be deployed to Ohio hospitals next week to help hospitals overwhelmed with staffing shortages and an influx of COVID-19 patients.

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