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How COVID-19 is affecting Columbus AFB, Airmen, families

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (Updated as of 1:02 p.m., March 23) --

As of March 22, Columbus Air Force, Mississippi, has declared a public health emergency and is in Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level Charlie; limiting Columbus AFB to official business only.

 

As of March 23, there is one positive case of COVID-19 on Columbus AFB. However, this person was not tested in the Koritz Clinic and was not part of the previously reported three cases that were tested. The test was conducted by an off-base provider. The member was on self-quarantine for the last 10 days and public health is conducting an investigation in accordance with their normal procedures. At this time, no additional measures are required for our installation. In an effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, implemented several protection measures across the base to help flatten the curve.

“The bottom line is, we need to continue to take care of ourselves, take care of each other and take care of our families so that we can protect the force,” Weeks said. “We also need to take prudent actions so that we can protect our mission as a flying training wing for national defense. … We need to align our operations with that of our city and county and community so that we can support the whole of government efforts in fighting coronavirus and flattening the curve.”

Travel restrictions

The Air Force and Columbus AFB have taken several precautions for mitigating and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of March 16, and continuing through May 11, the Air Force has halted all PCS moves and TDYs, with the exception of 19th Air Forces’s pilot training pipeline requirements. All community outreach events have also been suspended during this time, which includes the 2020 Wings Over Columbus, scheduled for April 25-26.  

Military members are also restricted to the location from where they live to where they work and the city in which they live, to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Leave has been restricted to the local area, or the city in which one lives. The leave and travel restrictions apply only to service members. However, family members are encouraged to follow local and CDC guidance as well.

As of March 21, the City of Columbus has also issued a curfew from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. daily with the exception of essential personnel movement.

Social Distancing

Base social events that regularly draw crowds near or over 50 people have been canceled in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. In line with the City of Columbus’ guidance, gathering sizes must remain smaller than 10 people, and squadron commander is the exception approval authority.

To help create social distancing, the base is permitting commanders to allow their employees to telework to the max extent possible. The wing is also ensuring its high-risk population is being taking care of appropriately.

The base has also restricted access to DOD ID Card holders only; exceptions are to be granted by group commander or higher.

Gate entry

Gate access procedures have also changed, and those entering base are now asked to hold their arms straight out of their vehicle with ID in hand and show both sides to the gate guard and allow the guard to scan the barcode before proceeding.

Medical Group access and changed procedures

The 14th Medical Group has also changed entry procedures into the Koritz Clinic in an effort to protect provider, patients and the facility. Click on, or copy and paste, the link to watch the video on new procedures, https://youtu.be/Ni56vSh3mkU.

Other changes in effect at the medical group include:

  • The RAC will be reduced to once a day at 8-8:30 a.m. RAC is for Return-to-Fly only.
  • The medical group will maximize the separation of healthy and sick patients, appointment times (face-to-face) have been adjusted to accommodate healthy-patients in the morning & sick-patients in the afternoon (to include sick call).
  • Lab and Radiology will only be available for medical necessity tests.
  • Dental Services are reduced to pre-deployment screenings and emergencies only.
  • The Pharmacy is recommending all patients check for a 90 day supply of routine medications; if less, start now to place e-script/mail order prescriptions.
  • Additionally, to decrease the face-to-face contact in the pharmacy, all patients on routine medications (new prescriptions or renewals) are to call 662-434-2168 or 662-434-3122 to activate your prescription before coming to the Medical Group.
  • Furthermore, beneficiaries should utilize the express scripts for their prescriptions or request that your medication is transferred to a pharmacy in town that offers drive-thru services. Click here for directions. With this in mind, the automated refill line will be turned off Monday, March 23, and transition to a telephone interview. If you have any questions and/or would like to transfer your prescription to an off base pharmacy. Please contact our pharmacy at 662-434-2168 or 662-434-3122 or you can contact your PCM at 662-434-CARE (2273).

Closed, canceled or altered operations

The Youth Center and Child Development Center have canceled all non-essential activities, like sports programs and part-day enrichment programs. Facilities that are closed to patrons include the Fitness Center, Freedom Park, Lil Blaz’r Park, Club, tax center, Whispering Pines, Outdoor Rec, the base library, tickets and tours (ITT), Arts & Crafts and the bowling lanes.

The Airman & Family Readiness Center, Chapel, legal office and are seeing people by appointment only.

On base food options will be takeout only, this includes the bowling alley, Rajun Cajun, Subway and Coffee on 5th in order to maximize social distancing.

If members are traveling off base, they are asked to use the same philosophy, and refrain from eating in social establishments and avoid bars, night clubs and restaurants to the max extent possible.

(For the most current information on closures and facility operations, visit the Columbus AFB COVID-19 page https://www.columbus.af.mil/Coronavirus/)

What to do if you’re showing symptoms

If any Airman or family member suspects they have the COVID-19, they should call the Nurse Advice Line at 662-434-2273 and select option 1, prior to visiting the clinic. They will be assessed via a line of questioning to determine the level of medical care needed and appropriate actions to be taken.

Next steps

Columbus AFB leadership meets on a daily basis to discuss and understand how the disease is evolving. The goal of these meetings is to ensure the base is doing everything possible to help mitigate the spread of this virus.

As the virus evolves over the local community, Columbus AFB is now going to change its reporting on the website and social media to indicate positive cases of Team Blaze populace that leadership is aware of.  Please note, there are cases where a person could receive a positive test and the wing not be aware. If a member receives a test at urgent care of a hospital, the wing may not be informed.  Leadership request any person share their test results with the medical group or their leadership so the base population is taken care of according to CDC and local guidance. If a member receives a test from the 14th MDG, the base will receive the test results and will include it in the number of positive cases it reports.

Weeks said that it will be the actions of each individual that will truly help control the scale and scope of where this disease spreads.

“Together we can truly reduce the communal impact of COVID-19 on us as individuals, families, base, community, city and nation,” Weeks said. “I am thankful for everything that each and every one of you are going to do, to protect you and every one of us.”

(Editor's note: Updated information has been italicized)