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COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Highlights

By Rachel Kersey | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | March 26, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

Leaders from Joint Base San Antonio hosted a COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall on the JBSA Facebook page March 25. The meeting assembled a panel of knowledgeable officials to answer questions about common concerns from the JBSA community. 

Leadership attempted to answer the most pressing questions from the JBSA community. Here is an overview of the most important points from the town hall in case you missed it:

To protect families, service members, and the trainees, JBSA moved from Health Protection Condition Bravo to HPCON Charlie over the weekend. As a result, the base operations moved to official business only March 26. Visitor passes will still be honored. Future visitor passes will be decided by the unit commander or their representative. 

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Defense Commissary Agency are considered mission essential. Therefore, patrons will still be able to make purchases at the Base Exchange and the Commissary. Those shopping there should be limited to people on official business, anyone who lives on the installation, and retirees on the installation receiving needed services.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in JBSA? Is it true that there was someone from Basic Military Training who tested positive?

Yes, it is true that one person from BMT tested positive. The trainee has been on Restriction of Movement, or ROM. They are being monitored for the initial 14-day quarantine period. The trainees in the dorms are practicing social distancing to protect trainees and continue the training mission.

“As we’ve learned more, we’re taking more and more precautions,” said Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, commander, 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA installation commander. “It’s a new normal for as long as we need it to be, but it’s critical to preserve our people and our national defense.” 

According to Lt. Col. Gary Moore, deputy commander of the 737th Training Group and Air Force BMT, social distancing is the number one priority. They have been able to extend hours in the dining facilities so that trainees can take their time and make sure that they are operating in ways that keep everyone healthy.

How is the base keeping healthcare workers healthy? 

We are taking aggressive steps to clean areas and surfaces that people may come into contact with. CDC recommendations for airborne and contact precautions have been implemented, including requiring all those assessing and treating suspected COVID-19 patients to use gloves, disposable gowns, fitted N-95 masks, and eye protection. 

How is the base sanitizing areas that may have been exposed to COVID-19?

We are conducting contact tracing to identify all areas that may have been exposed to the virus. These areas will undergo extensive, professional deep-cleaning. Current CDC guidelines say that it is important to clean where a trainee has been active for thirty minutes or more. On base, we are cleaning those areas after fifteen minutes, using products approved by the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency for viral-type cleaning. 

“The ABW has recently established some new contracts to be able to do this deep-clean service,” said Lt. Col. Andy Cullen, 502nd Civil Engineering Group deputy commander. “They follow the procedures the CDC has set up. They clean the surfaces first, they spray it with the disinfectant, they let it sit on the surface for a bit and then they wipe it up. And then they clean up all the waste afterward and that is disposed of properly.”

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms or if someone I know is experiencing symptoms? 

The first thing you should do is call the nurse advice line if you are worried or feeling sick. This is available for all TRICARE beneficiaries. They can help you decide if self-care is the best option or if you should see a practitioner. 

Another option is the Brooke Army Medical Center hotline, which is available to talk to people with COVID-19 symptoms and concerns. Their number is 210-581-2266, then select option 6. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. and on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Please call before walking into a medical facility. This will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and any other diseases.

Additionally, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has opened a COVID-19 hotline to answer questions city residents may have. The hotline is available in English and Spanish. Their phone number is 210-207-5779. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Can JBSA provide testing for COVID-19?

Yes, but make sure you call a healthcare provider or one of the hotlines first. Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, as well as BAMC and the clinic on JBSA-Randolph, are offering drive-thru screenings. The test will be processed at BAMC and the patient will self-isolate until the results are returned. For BMT trainees who need to be tested, there is the trainee health clinic on JBSA-Fort. Sam Houston and JBSA-Lackland.

Was there a positive test for COVID-19 at one of the Child Development Centers? 

No. There has been no positive case of a child or staff member at any of the CDCs. If you need child care, it is currently safe for your child to come to one of the CDC locations.

“We do want to thank our staff,” Lenderman said. “They are on the frontlines helping accomplish this mission.”

Are there any changes to the Army grooming policies for the students at the Army Medical Center of Excellence?

No. The grooming policy is still the same and aligned with Department of the Army standards according to Maj. Gen. Dennis Lemaster, MEDCoE commanding general. The barbershops will remain open, and the appropriate social distancing standards will be observed. 

How does teleworking work? Should I telework? 

JBSA is currently seeking to expand bandwidth for telework as quickly as possible. At this time, commanders are charged with prioritizing who needs to be teleworking and who needs to be in the office. Talk with your commander to see where he or she would like you to work. It is the commander’s responsibility to make those personnel calls, keeping in mind that they need to utilize bandwidth in the most efficient and effective manner. 

If you live with someone who has an autoimmune deficiency, be sure to talk to your commander or someone in your chain of command to try to work out appropriate arrangements for you and your loved one. 

“At the 502nd ABW, we’ve identified key mission essentials,” said Brian Hoffman, 502nd ABW deputy director of staff. “Over Communicate. Communication is key during this emergency.”

“Your family and your loved ones are the reason we’re here, to protect them and keep them safe,” Lenderman said. “I encourage everyone, don’t be too isolated. Don’t forget that connection is important.”

More information and updates are available at jbsa.mil and on JBSA social media sites. Specific information about the COVID-19 coronavirus at available at www.cdc.gov.