Some USAF Bases Increase Restrictions as COVID-19 Cases Surge

As states across the country roll back reopening plans, some USAF bases are tightening their own restrictions following a surge in COVID-19 cases.

As of June 26, there are 1,128 total cases of COVID-19 in the Air Force, with 10,606 across all services. 

Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, on June 26 raised its health protection condition to Charlie, the second highest, as its host state has become a hot spot for COVID-19, according to a base news release. The base complex, which includes Air Force basic military training, previously lowered its health protection condition to Bravo in May.

The change means the base is only open to mission-critical personnel, along with 100 percent identification checks. Basic training will continue at Lackland, which has adjusted its processes to lower class size and increase social distancing to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus.

Laughlin Air Force Base, also in Texas, confirmed its first case of the virus on June 24. The base is requiring facial coverings when maintaining a six foot distance is not possible, but has not announced closures or other restrictions. Goodfellow Air Force Base is following the same guidelines, and encouraging Airmen to be open about how they feel.

“The level at which you are performing in this challenging environment can cause fatigue, which is difficult to recover from,” 17th Training Wing Commander Col. Andres Nazario said in a June 25 message to the base. “I ask you to understand your limits and communicate them, practice personal resilience, and encourage your teams to do the same.”

In Arizona, which has also seen an increase in cases, Air Force bases are staying with the health protection levels but reminding Airmen to remain vigilant. Col. Michael Drowley, commander of the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said the base has seen “relatively low cases,” but the community needs to “keep up the pressure and fight the virus” by staying home if you have symptoms, keeping up good hygiene, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask.

Florida also has seen an increase in cases. At MacDill Air Force Base, several services remain closed, including fitness centers and dining facilities, while others such as legal, logistics readiness, and the military and family readiness center are at minimal manning.  

Hill Air Force Base, Utah, has seen cases rise in its state, and 75th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Jon Eberlan asked his Airmen not to let their guard down and keep wearing face coverings in public areas and work spaces.

“Wearing face coverings is an important part of our infection control strategy to help prevent the spread and should be worn whether you’re on or off base,” Eberlan said in a June 24 release.

With some Air Force bases keeping their restrictions in place, other Defense Department locations are opening up, including the Pentagon. The Pentagon Reservation on June 29 will transition to phase two of its reopening, which includes opening another entrance and increasing the maximum number of mission-essential personnel working in the building to 80 percent. Face mask requirements, screenings, and restrictions on total size of gatherings remain in place.