JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. , March 25, 2020 —
Col. Andrew Purath, 11th Wing and Joint Base Andrews installation commander, answered questions live on Facebook, March 24, 2020, to address the most pressing questions on the novel coronavirus pandemic from base personnel and the surrounding community.
Purath was joined by Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Daniels, 11th Wing command chief during the live question-and answer session which lasted approximately 54 minutes and covered myriad elements of the current public health crisis, mostly as they relate to JBA's response and the changes in base services/activities.
Below is a condensed and summarized transcript of the live online conversation. Similar questions and answers are grouped together and additional context has been added for clarity.
What is the current HPCON, and what does that mean?
Purath: The Health Protection Condition upgraded from Bravo to Charlie on March 22, 2020. Most of the measures under Bravo continued under Charlie. The change was made to align our installation with our U.S. Army counterparts and both Maryland and Virginia.
What are the general guidelines for the HPCONs?
Purath: One of the factors that adjusts HPCON is morbidity rates, and so far, the rates are in line with what Center for Disease Control has been expecting. We have driven work population down tremendously by social distancing measures such as personnel teleworking and alternate work schedules.
If HPCON elevates can it be announced on the GIANT VOICE?
Purath: No, the point of giant voice is to have personnel take immediate action from base attacks and natural disasters. Please look for updates on COVID-19 on our base website, Facebook Page, and marquee when entering the base.
Will the base limit who can come on base?
Purath: It’s not my intent to limit access to the base for anyone. From a practical point of view, any restrictions to base access would also impact our community that lives on base and works in the community. I have no intention of a base lockdown or shut down at this time.
Will we have a curfew on base?
Purath: We will not have a curfew. This is similar to the lockdown piece, unless large groups of people are not adhering to social distancing, then there is no need to enforce a curfew.
What are some confirmed cases on base?
Purath: A total of eight people (Note: This was the current number at the time) have tested positive and all are in self-quarantine.
How does the Pharmacy do the drive-in for medicine?
Purath: If you are issued a script or need a refill, you call the pharmacy line (1-888-999-1212, Options 1-2-3-2) to activate as you normally do. The pharmacy will acknowledge receipt, then ask you to drive to the Chapel 1 parking lot across the street and wait. You will receive a text message when your prescription is ready for pick-up, which will direct you to the first floor of the parking garage. The 11th MDG has airmen at every corner directing traffic. For those people that do not have a cellphone, we are developing a workaround and will send out those details as soon as available.
How long will the BX pharmacy be open?
Purath: The satellite pharmacy has closed at this time and all re-fill prescriptions will be picked up at the Malcolm Grow parking garage like all other prescriptions.
What services are likely to close or have adjusted hours?
Purath: All functions across installation have organized themselves to minimize mission impact.
Base Lodging - The base hotel will remain open, however, Space-A rooms are not available at this time to make room for support operation members during this time.
Mail delivery - Services will stay open at this time. We have aligned with Maryland, and mail is one of those areas exempt from closures.
Laundry mat - Similarly, laundry mat services are one of the exempted categories and will remain open.
CDCs - All three Child Development Centers will continue to stay open on base and provide services. Parents have been doing their part to minimize the number of children being dropped off which helps us in our efforts.
Exchange and Commissary - Both will remain open; the Exchange is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Commissary is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. As of now, during the hours of 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Commissary, only Active Duty and their dependents may visit the Commissary. All other patrons are authorized to visit the Commissary from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgical Center - No, the clinics will not close.
Burger King - Burger King has seen an increase in sales on base via their drive-thru and will remain open at this time.
Force Support Facilities - Places such as Outdoor Recreation and physical fitness centers are closed.
For a current listing of base services, check out our COVID-19 page at https://www.jba.af.mil/Home/COVID-19-Coronavirus/.
Any thought of having all childcare facilities being available only to essential personnel only?
Purath: The CDCs will remain open for those who have authorized access to utilize those facilities. I’ve strayed away from the term of mission essential. What we’ve seen at the CDCs here is daily attendance down to low 200s across three facilities. Parents are keeping children home, and that allows us to implement COVID guidelines better because the ratio of providers to children is lower.
How can people volunteer to help at the Commissary?
Daniels: Contact your unit’s First Sergeant and have them forward your name to the 11th Mission Support Group Chief so that you can help out.
What is being done to keep the BX and Commissary clear of COVID-19?
Purath: The Center for Disease Control put out the guidelines that all personnel are supposed to be six feet apart, not closer than that for 15 seconds at a time. First thing we did was implement social distancing and now a maximum number of 100 shoppers are allowed in at a time. But it is up to each individual to prevent the spread be adhering to appropriate, cautious measures.
If someone living in housing tests positive, will the rest of housing be notified that there's a confirmed case living on base?
Purath: All base residence should have received a letter, if you are tested positive, you need to report that to public health but we will not publicly announce that to the residence. This virus is already around us, even if there is a confirmed case, if everyone is doing what the CDC asks, then the rate of transmissions is extremely low.
Daniels: Even if someone is tested positive, they are self-quarantining and follow guidelines to not allow it to spread. All positives on base have been tested at the clinic and then put in self-quarantine.
What about people that are deployed or getting ready to deploy? Are they putting a hold?
Purath: Members scheduled to deploy need to refer back to their squadron, deployment manager, and chain of command, as missions are still taking place around the world and we are still trying to provide members for combatant commanders.
Similarly, members scheduled to PCS during this time need to check with their gaining and losing installations to stay up-to-date regarding their movement.
What is the Guard setting up at FedEx Field?
Purath: Currently, the Maryland Guard is staging at FedEx Field parking lot to support that location as a drive-thru testing site for those with actual COVID symptoms.
If the state of Maryland designated shelter in place, what can we expect?
Purath: It would depend on the nature of the order. Other states instituted a lockdown but with wide exemption categories. I don’t think the order would seriously impact our posture.
How are people able to meet MFLAC for counseling?
Purath: All functions are available with adjustments to how you receive services, please reach out to them directly and they will get you in virtually.
How to stay fit to fight without gym access?
Daniels: It can be difficult to adjust your workout routine, but there are positive ways in this situation to develop new routines. Visit our outdoor Tactical Fitness locations near our two gyms. Go for walks/runs with family or friends while maintaining that social distance.