Joint Base Andrews and several other installations in the Washington D.C. area increased their health protection condition to HPCON Charlie at 3 p.m. today in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a media release.
At the direction of Col. Andrew Purath, the commander of the 11th Wing and Joint Base Andrews, the base shifted from HPCON Bravo, according to the release. Other military bases throughout the National Capital Region have similarly shifted to HPCON Charlie.
HPCON Charlie indicates substantial risk and sustained community transmission of the COVID-19 disease. The highest level is HPCON Delta, which indicates severe risk and widespread community transmission.
Operational readiness at the base — home of the 89th Airlift Wing, which flies the VC-25A Boeing 747 known as “Air Force One” when the president is aboard — is not affected, according to the release.
In addition to Joint Base Andrews, Armed Forces Retirement Homes (Washington, D.C., and Gulfport, Mississippi) and Naval District Washington are also now at HPCON Charlie, spokesman Zachary Baddorf tells Military Times.
Others in the area are also at HPCON Bravo.
The move comes as the Pentagon reported what it believes is the first death of a DoD worker testing positive for COVID-19.
Pentagon officials told Military Times that the number of service members testing positive for COVID-19 jumped nearly 66 percent since Friday morning, from 67 on 111 as of Sunday morning.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 111 service members, 32 civilians, 37 dependents and 31 contractors with confirmed cases of COVID-19, officials told Military Times. That’s nearly double the number of service members and contractors with confirmed cases reported Friday morning, when there were 67 service members battling COVID-19, according to Pentagon data, as well as 15 DoD civilians, 26 dependents and 16 contractors.
That’s about a 31-percent jump for troops — 51 cases were reported yesterday — and more than a 60-percent jump for dependents over Thursday’s totals. The military health system had tested more than 1,500 samples as of Thursday.
Under HPCON Charlie, the installation workforce, residents, and community using base services should:
*Expect cancellation of in-person gatherings (e.g., schools, daycare, all community activities) and restricted ability to travel.
*Plan activities for family members, especially children, in case you are restricted to your home for prolonged periods of time.
*Prepare for limited and/or restricted access to the installation if directed.
*Implement remote work procedures as directed.
“Our top priority is protecting everyone’s health,” Purath said. “We are working in close partnership with regional, state and county officials to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus on base and within the community. During this challenging time, we all must do our part to protect our fellow service members, our families and our community.”
The requirements under HPCON Charlie are mandatory for all Joint Base Andrews service members and are highly encouraged for DoD civilian, contractor employees, and family members. The base has already implemented precautions throughout the base to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, including changes to procedures at its gates and medical facilities.
On March 24 at 11 a.m., Purath and his command chief will hold a Facebook Live session to address concerns around COVID-19. The live stream can be accessed on the Joint Base Andrews Facebook page: www.facebook.com/jointbaseandrews
The most updated information is available on the Joint Base Andrews COVID-19 website: https://www.jba.af.mil/Home/COVID-19-Coronavirus/ . The website includes hours of operation for facilities on base.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.