Navy leaders on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson declared a public well being emergency Friday and urged personnel to keep away from off-base locations that don’t require masking or social distancing, given the more and more excessive COVID-19 case counts and strained hospital capability in Southcentral Alaska.
“This declaration displays the continued actuality that JBER is experiencing sustained neighborhood transmission of COVID-19,” Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, 673d Air Base Wing and JBER commander, mentioned in a ready assertion. “It can stay in impact for 30 days, however could also be prolonged or shortened primarily based on circumstances.”
The bottom has moved into Well being Safety Situation Bravo. The change means Aguilar has extra authority to take actions that will shield the bottom towards COVID-19.
“If the scenario continues to worsen, extra measures to guard the pressure will likely be applied, together with limiting entry to off-base institutions,” JBER officers mentioned in a press release.
In a letter despatched to personnel Friday, Lt. Gen. David Krumm, a senior army commander accountable for Air Power forces in Alaska and the homeland protection mission for the state, mentioned that almost all exposures to the virus amongst service members are taking place off JBER.
“Sadly, the dearth of mitigation measures off-base has resulted in alarmingly excessive an infection charges, hospitalizations and deaths in our neighborhood,” Krumm wrote. “Present COVID instances on JBER haven’t but reached the purpose of jeopardizing our readiness, however they’re rising, and our information is that off-base publicity is the first supply of an infection for our service members and their households.”
Whereas the bottom shouldn’t be implementing any rapid restrictions, Krumm mentioned he’s asking army members and households to keep away from services that don’t require masks, bodily distancing and different mitigation measures.
In the intervening time, neither Anchorage nor the Mat-Su have masks necessities or capability restrictions for companies or gatherings in place. In Anchorage, Mayor Dave Bronson has continued to say no pursuing such measures.
COVID-19 instances and hospitalizations in Anchorage and statewide have risen sharply in a surge pushed by the extremely contagious delta variant. Alaska on Friday had the nation’s third highest COVID-19 case fee per 100,000 individuals during the last two weeks.
The scenario has grown so dire that the state’s largest hospital, Windfall Alaska Medical Heart in Anchorage, this week started rationing care underneath crisis-care protocols. Different hospitals within the metropolis and state are reporting related ranges of stress on staffing and capability.
Division of Protection and federal installations, like JBER, require masking and social distancing in all indoor services in the event that they’re situated in an space of excessive transmission, Krumm mentioned.
Krumm mentioned restrictions, like those JBER enacted in October 2020 that prevented service members from visiting certain off-base establishments, may very well be enacted if there isn’t enchancment quickly.
“This can be a message to our service members and their households that we must always do that voluntarily simply to assist out our neighborhood and to assist out the pressure,” Krumm mentioned in an interview Friday. “Additionally, to allow them to have discover that ought to it worsen, we are going to completely do no matter we’ve to to guard the pressure.”
All Division of Protection service members are required to obtain the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and Krumm mentioned in an interview that the Air Power unit on JBER is approaching 95% vaccination protection.
“We all the time encourage everybody who’s eligible for the vaccine to take it as quickly as attainable,” Krumm mentioned. “Now we have loads of vaccines out there. And we’ve an open door coverage for anybody right here on base to come back get their vaccines.”