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An airman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Jan. 29, 2021.

An airman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Jan. 29, 2021. (Tyler Greenlees/U.S. Air Force)

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DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base remains in its strictest health protection condition yet and in a public emergency as it continues to weather the pandemic.

The Air Force Base transitioned to health protection condition (HPCON) Delta Jan. 7, largely reacting to dire regional COVID metrics, such as hospitalizations and case positivity rates.

Since then, however, the situation has "unfortunately only gotten worse," said Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Wright-Patterson.

Referring to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Miller in a Facebook town hall Wednesday afternoon noted that Montgomery County has 12,314 COVID-positive cases, amounting to 2,316.02 cases per populations of 100,000 over seven days and a case positivity rate of more than 30%.

"We're still heading in the wrong direction. We're not out of this thing," Miller said. He predicted the base would remain in HPCON Delta for "a while."

The commander stressed that he wants to see improved regional data, calling the situation "community-driven."

"This is really a numbers game, folks," Miller said.

Roughly 89% of patients in local hospital Intensive Care Units are unvaccinated, Miller said. On the installation, military members are about 97% vaccinated and more than 90% of civilian employees are vaccinated, he said.

"It is a safe place to work," Miller said of the base. "We're not seeing transmissions across this installation."

Among other changes and restrictions, HPCON Delta drives base employee occupancy down to 15%. The target for in-person meetings and gatherings in HPCON Delta should be 10 people or less, and teleworking should be continued and maximized, base leaders have said.

"Because of our situation, I did not drive us down to a 15% occupancy rate," Miller noted Wednesday before adding that he asked base missions to take a "hard look" on who was coming to work physically on base.

Col. Christian Lyons, commander of the 88th Medical Group, noted a 10% reduction in COVID admissions statewide over the last 10 days, but locally, there is plenty of demand for care, he said.

Upwards of 160 patients have been "boarded" in local emergency departments due to a lack of space and staffing, with nearly 600 "COVID-related" in-patients hospitalized in an eight-county area around Dayton and 90 patients requiring ventilators, Lyons said.

Lyons said further the medical group has one team deployed to Michigan to assist civilian hospitals and has been asked to prepare two more teams for similar deployments.

If and when those teams are deployed, it will trigger delays in care at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, he said, adding: "But we have not closed any specific medical services at this time."

(c)2022 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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