Navy sets reduced capacity rates for workplaces during coronavirus pandemic


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WASHINGTON — Nearly a year after the Navy first encouraged teleworking to prevent spreading the coronavirus, the service has issued new guidance restricting in-person staffing levels for commands at certain installations around the world.

Navy workplaces should be staffed at no more than 50% of its regular capacity at installations under Health Protection Condition Bravo, meaning areas with a daily average of two to 15 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, according to the memorandum released by Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy.

That rate decreases to 40% under HPCON-Bravo+, which includes areas with a daily average of 16-30 new cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period, 25% for those under HPCON-Charlie with an average of 31-60 new cases for 100,000, and 15% for those in HPCON-Delta with more than 60 new cases per 100,000 during the same amount of time.

Full capacity is allowed for units under HPCON-Alpha, but that requires a daily average of fewer than two new cases per 100,000 people during seven consecutive days, according to the memo.

The order is a “significant change” from guidance issued last year, the service said in its memo. That guidance, issued May 20, 2020, instructed commanders to “encourage telework and consider split shifts when feasible,” but made no formal instruction regarding capacity rates.

The new policy, expected to last throughout the pandemic, “limits the number of personnel in the workplace by maximizing remote work, flexible scheduling and other methods, synchronized with the HPCON level,” the Navy said in its memo.

However, capacity reduction is not feasible for all units. Commanders can request greater capacity levels in “cases where required occupancy for mission success exceeds the limits,” according to the document.

Further, those at medical treatment facilities, first-responder units, “forces supporting critical national capabilities, Navy operational units, command headquarters, shipyards, fleet readiness centers and units providing essential mission support” are exempt from the capacity limits, according to the memo.

“Commanders shall not reduce occupancy such that critical national security interests are jeopardized,” the Navy said.

The guidance comes as the Air Force considers keeping its half-capacity staffing at the Pentagon after the pandemic subsides, according to a Monday report by Defense One, which cited unnamed officials.

The Air Force declined to confirm the report Tuesday.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos