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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joel Crespo, a medic with the Lansing, Mich., Military Entrance Processing Station, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Senior Airman Kody Phillips, a medical technician with the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Jan. 19, 2021.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joel Crespo, a medic with the Lansing, Mich., Military Entrance Processing Station, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Senior Airman Kody Phillips, a medical technician with the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Jan. 19, 2021. (Tyler Greenlees/U.S. Air Force)

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DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base leaders are seeing lower Dayton-area COVID case numbers, leading to a relaxation of its health protection condition level from Delta to Charlie — and a gradual return to more normal operations.

The move is based on improved regional hospital capacity, trending of cases, percent positivity rate and other metrics, said Col. Patrick Miller, Wright-Patterson installation commander and commander of the 88th Air Base Wing.

In particular, hospital capacity is seeing dramatic improvements, Miller said in a Facebook town hall Wednesday afternoon.

"We see all of that coming back down, and coming down fast," he said.

Miller applauded new data showing case numbers falling in recent weeks from about 2,300 to 160 cases per 100,000 residents. "That's significant," he said.

Some local metrics are even starting to trend toward the lower end of HPCON Charlie or the even better Bravo-plus range.

"We're seeing our new cases really come down," the colonel said.

Wright-Patterson softened its COVID-related health protocols Friday as base leaders saw improved health and hospitalization metrics across the region.

But the base remains under a public health emergency, and that will likely last until mid- to late March, Miller said.

The base noted last Friday that at the Charlie level, facility worker occupancy is still set at less than 25%, and all official travel and military leave requires unit review before approval.

But the change to Charlie does mean physical fitness testing is returning, and base fitness centers are opening under some occupancy limits — the Jarvis and Dodge gyms have 100-person maximum capacity while the Wright Field fitness center has a 200-person capacity.

Meanwhile, base food service sites are offering service under their own limits, and chapels are returning to in-person services.

For weeks, Miller and other Wright-Patt officers have noted that while COVID numbers raged outside the base, they tended to be far lower among those living on base.

"We have been doing such a good job of being a bubble in this COVID storm," said Major Bryon Manning, of the base's 88th Medical Group.

(c)2022 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio

Visit Springfield News-Sun, Ohio at www.springfieldnewssun.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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