Joint Base Andrews in Maryland declared a public health emergency for 30 days Monday morning due to the unfolding coronavirus outbreak.
Travis Air Force Base in California said in a tweet Sunday evening that an airman at the base, as well as the dependent of a service member, have tested positive for COVID-19.
And Air Mobility Command said that its headquarters at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois are implementing telework, staggered shifts and other steps to reduce personnel’s exposure to the virus while still getting the job done.
The announcements are some of the latest examples of how the coronavirus pandemic is prompting bases to take steps to mitigate its spread.
Declaring a public health emergency, as Andrews did at 10 a.m. Monday, allows Col. Andrew Purath, commander of the base and the 11th Wing, to take preventive steps to limit the virus’s spread, including restricting base movement and limiting services. Purath can end the emergency at any time, or extend it if necessary, Andrews said in a release.
“Declaring a public health emergency on Joint Base Andrews allows us a proactive approach to protect the safety and health of our airmen and the surrounding community,” Purath said. “Our top priority remains mitigating the effects and potential spread of this coronavirus.”
On Tuesday morning, Purath and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Daniels will live stream a question and answer session on Facebook to address the community’s concerns about COVID-19.
AMC said there are now no COVID-19 cases at Scott, but the schedule shifts are precautionary measures that will stay in place until the risk is lessened.
“My top priority is the protection and welfare of our airmen, employees and their families,” Gen. Maryanne Miller, AMC’s commander, said in Monday’s release. “Through these measures, we will limit physical interaction among our headquarters workforce to mitigate the risk of exposure and spread of this highly communicable virus.”
Travis said that the airman and the dependent who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are now in isolation at their respective homes off-base, and county public health officials have been notified.
“We are coordinating closely with our Team Travis and local county medical professionals to provide important care to the airman and family member,” Col. Jeffrey Nelson, commander of Travis’ 60th Air Mobility Wing, said in a tweet. “My leadership team and I are committed to the continued safety of our entire community and actively engaged and monitoring this evolving situation. We will continue working together with on- and off-base health care agencies to mitigate the effects of this virus and provide pertinent updates as timely as possible.”
Military health professionals at Travis are now tracing who came into contact with the airman and dependentn to find out if anyone else has been in close contact with them and may have been exposed.
The Air Force said last week that an airman at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma tested positive for coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known case of an airman contracting COVID-19.
The Air Force also said in an email Monday that an active-duty airman at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia had a presumptive positive COVID-19 test — meaning that the person tested positive in a local test and is awaiting confirmation from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab — and is now undergoing evaluation and treatment.
Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama also has a civilian employee who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 and is now undergoing evaluation and treatment, the Air Force said.
The Air Force has authorized its personnel who work at the Pentagon to telework, when their mission allows, to spread the workforce out during the outbreak.
Air University, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, has also asked all students attending Squadron Officer School and the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy to return to their home stations as part of the Pentagon’s travel and temporary duty restrictions.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.