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Eglin AFB is loosening its COVID-19-related mission posture

By JIM THOMPSON | Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach | Published: October 9, 2020

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EGLIN AFB, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Brig. Gen. Scott Cain has moved Eglin Air Force Base at least some distance from what had been a mission-essential-personnel-only posture that also had kept visitors off the installation in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Cain's decision moves the base into a posture where "non-mission essential tasks may begin in the workplace if they cannot be supported by telework," according to an announcement from the base.

"Maximum use of telework to reduce the footprint on base is still encouraged," the announcement noted.

Also, personnel at high risk of contracting COVID-19 — older workers or workers with pre-existing health conditions including compromised immune systems, heart conditions or Type 2 diabetes — "will remain on telework ... unless mission-essential to their unit," according to the announcement

With the change, visitors can return to Eglin — with the required pass from the Visitor Control Center, acknowledgement of the installation's COVID-19 mitigation rules and the following of those rules.

Cain, commander of the 96th Test Wing, Eglin's host unit and installation commander, also warned personnel in the announcement that the change in posture does not mean a relaxation in COVID-19 protective measures such as social distancing, strict hygiene, wearing of masks, regular cleaning of work areas and staying home when sick.

“Although COVID-19 conditions are improving overall, our continued vigilance in combatting the spread of this virus is essential,” Cain said in announcing the base's move from Health Protection Condition Charlie to a modified Health Protection Condition Bravo, which became effective Wednesday. Health Protection Condition Bravo is the second point on a four-point Department of Defense scale while Health Protection Condition Charlie at the third point on the scale.

“Not only will strict adherence to these risk mitigation measures slow the spread of COVID-19, but as we enter influenza season, we may reduce the likelihood of spreading that virus as well,” Cain added.

As of Friday, Eglin had logged 78 COVID-19 cases since April, when its first case was reported, according to data from the Florida Department of Emergency Management. 

There has been something of an encouraging trend in new COVID-19 cases in Okaloosa County, where the main part of Eglin is located, in the past month, with 10 days on which numbers of new cases were in the teens or even single digits, according to Florida Department of Health data.

But on Thursday, the county posted 58 new cases, the highest number of new cases since Sept. 10, when 48 new cases were reported.

In Walton County, where daily new case numbers have been consistently lower than Okaloosa County, the story was somewhat the same late last week. Twenty-three new cases were reported Thursday, up 14 from the nine cases reported Wednesday. Thursday's count was the highest number of new daily cases in the last month since Sept. 21, when 27 new cases were reported.

In Santa Rosa County on Thursday, 23 new cases were reported, up 10 cases from the previous day's total of 13 new cases. Santa Rosa County's number of new daily cases has remained relatively low over the past month. Since Sept. 10, when 54 new cases were reported, new daily casesunty have stayed consistently in the 20s, often dropping to the teens and single digits.

Even with the relaxation in Health Protection Condition status, base officials at Eglin will maintain a watchful eye on area COVID-19 statistics.

"We will continue to monitor local conditions for early indications of a resurgence in cases," Cain's announcement said. 

Elsewhere in the area, Hurlburt Field remained at Health Protection Condition Charlie as of Friday.

"Hurlburt has not yet moved to Health Protection Condition Bravo," Tech Sgt. Michelle Di Ciolli of the 1st Special Operations Wing public affairs office said in a Friday text message, "but when we do, we'll put the info out through press release and social media."

As of Friday, 11 COVID cases had been reported at Hurlburt since the beginning of the pandemic.

©2020 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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