Fort Gordon commander urges vaccination, mask use amid ‘alarming’ jump in virus cases
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The commander of Fort Gordon and its Army Cyber Center of Excellence on Thursday implored people to mask up and get vaccinated, as another wave of coronavirus crashes ashore in Georgia and South Carolina.
The recent proliferation of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Brig. Gen. Paul Stanton said in a recorded announcement, has been both “alarming” and “scary.”
“Please get vaccinated. Wear your mask so that you don’t spread the disease,” said the general, who was masked. “It’s a safety issue in terms of the transmissibility. If you wear your mask, if you’re vaccinated, we can start to turn the curve in the direction that is safe for all of us.”
Thousands of new coronavirus cases have been reported daily in the neighboring Peach and Palmetto states — a marked departure from around this time last month.
Stanton’s entreaties come days after President Joe Biden endorsed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s request to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for members of the military.
“I strongly support Secretary Austin’s message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September,” the president said in a statement released by the White House. “Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective.”
More than 73% of active-duty personnel have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccines, according to the Pentagon.
Stanton on Thursday suggested ICU beds were “filling” with unvaccinated people. More than 2,600 ICU beds — 88% of capacity — are currently being used across Georgia, state data show.
“Please, for your own safety, for the safety of your teammates, your family and your community, and, ultimately, for mission readiness: Wear your mask, wear it properly, get vaccinated, and let’s fight our way out of this,” Stanton said.
Austin in an Aug. 9 memo to all Defense Department employees said he would “be keeping a close eye on infection rates” — recently driven by the delta variant, first identified in India — and “the impact these rates might have on our readiness.”
Stanton on Thursday delivered a starker message: “If you get the virus and you have to quarantine, quite frankly, we’re diminishing our capability to execute the mission.”
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