The Defense Department’s new guidance mandating the return of mask wearing in certain areas for all personnel, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, will impact the vast majority of Air Force and Space Force installations in the United States, an Air Force Magazine analysis shows.
More than 85 percent of CONUS Active-duty Air Force and Space Force bases and stations across the country fall in areas defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission, according to July 29 data from the CDC.
The DOD, following updated CDC guidance, on July 28 directed troops, civilians, contractors, and others to wear masks indoors at DOD installations if they are in areas with high or substantial transmission.
As of July 29, the CDC counts more than 69 percent of counties in the U.S. as having high or substantial transmission, including nearly 50 percent at high, the top tier. The CDC defines a high transmission rate as counties with at least 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period, while substantial is 50-99 new cases per 100,000 residents during the same time period.
But certain areas of the country are significantly more affected at the moment, and the Department of the Air Force’s installations fall in many. The entire state of Florida, home to four Air Force installations and two Space Force ones, is considered to have high or substantial transmission.
All of the department’s six installations in California fall in affected areas, as do all five in Colorado and all five in Texas. In particular, many of the largest bases by Air Force population, including Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; as well as Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, are in areas with high or substantial transmission.
Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., was originally not included in the affected areas, but the CDC’s updated data on the evening of July 29 pushed Sarpy County, where the base is located, into substantial transmission territory.
As of the evening of July 29, just 10 Air Force Bases and Space Force Stations located within the U.S. and its territories are in areas with “low” or “moderate” transmission, meaning the new mask mandate does not apply. Of those 10, half are located either in the mid-Atlantic or New England.
The following Active-duty installations are in areas with either low or moderate COVID-19 transmission, where personnel are not required to wear masks indoors if vaccinated:
- Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.
- Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.
- Dover Air Force Base, Del.
- Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.
- Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
- Joint Base Andrews, Md.
- New Boston Space Force Station, N.H.
- Cavalier Space Force Station, N.D.
- Clear Space Force Station, Alaska
- Headquarters Air Force, Va.
That leaves 62 other bases and stations in the U.S. in areas with substantial or high transmission. At the same time, President Joe Biden announced July 29 that he was directing the department to look into how and when it will make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for military members, a move that has been debated and discussed for weeks now.