By Brian Lamar NCBC Public Affairs
Hot off the heels of the recorded highest single-day of COVID-19 cases reported (more than 600) in Mississippi, the Navy has given more decisive guidance with finer details of what is expected of commanders and troops to keep the force safe in the latest fragmentary order (FRAGO) in regards to COVID-19 precautions. “This virus is not just going away because local state rules have relaxed. If anything, we are seeing a resurgence in numbers of reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths reported in the state,” said Capt. Bill Whitmire, Naval Construction Battalion Center commanding officer. “These measures are tough, but now is the time to practice the motto we like to say ‘Service over self’,” said Whitmire.
While the Navy is in the throes of managing a conditions-based approach to both Health Protection Condition changes while balancing the lifting of travel restrictions, the emphasis on ensuring the health of the force and maintaining mission readiness is vital, according to the FRAGO.
Just like NCBC, which resides in the Harrison County area, the Navy is dealing with local governments across the country easing community restrictions regarding COVID-19 exposure. “We bear the obligation to continue to protect our Sailors, their families and our civilian population’s health in order to maintain the ability to deploy our warfighters at a moment’s notice to support combatant commanders around the globe,” said Whitmire.
A major concern for Navy leaders is not only the spread of the disease, but asymptomatic spread. “Asymptomatic spread is a reality and one misstep opens a potential attack vector for the virus,” said the FRAGO. “We must stay vigilant in execution of force health protection guidance and hold ourselves and each other accountable for our actions.”
Restrictions listed in the FRAGO are based on the current installation HPCON status. The current status of an installation is set forth by U.S. Fleet Forces Command. NCBC is currently directed to maintain HPCON Charlie.
- Here is a detailed list of what is expected of all commands and personnel aboard NCBC Gulfport.
- Cancel unit and installation sponsored events Avoid large public gatherings and practice social distancing
- Maximize telework for telework-ready employees
- Cancel large public gatherings on installations
- Re-scope, modify or cancel upcoming exercises.
- Continue to approve leave and travel to and from the area on a case-by-case basis (IAW OPNAV, CUSFF/NAVNORTH AND PACFLT GUIDANCE, AUTHORITIES AND DIRECTIVES).
- Coordinate with state and local authorities to synchronize on installation self-monitoring guidance for personnel returning from higher risk locations (PREVIOUS ROM GUIDANCE).
In addition, Servicemembers are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in the following off-installation facilities, services or establishments:
- Recreational swimming pools,
- fitness facilities
- exercise classes
- salons: (Tattoo, body art, piercing parlors Barber shops, hair or nail salons, and massage parlors)
- Participation in team/organized sports
- Dine-in restaurants (take-out authorized)
- night clubs
- sporting events
- public celebrations
- public beaches
- amusement parks or other events designed to promote large gatherings, to include indoor religious services
- Outdoor recreation where common use facilities are used and if a minimum of six feet physical distancing cannot be maintained
- Non-essential commercial retail establishments and shopping malls.
To the maximum extent practical, service members, government civilians, family members, and contract employees should minimize unnecessary in-person use of the following services and activities. (If these services and activities must be utilized, prudent precautions (including mandatory physical distancing and use of cloth face coverings) shall be exercised.) :
- Use of mass transit (bus, rail, or ferry)
- Auto repair maintenance and annual inspection
- Curb-side and drive through services
- In-home domestic services (home maintenance/repair and lawn services).
- Drive-in spiritual services
- Banking services
- Pet care and veterinary services
- Post office
- Laundry services
- dry cleaning
- In-residence social gatherings that include more than ten (10) guests that do not reside in the residence. In-residence social gatherings are strongly discouraged if anyone residing in the home is covid-19 positive or influenza like illness symptomatic.
Although these guidelines are specifically for service members, DoD civilians, contractors and family members are strongly encouraged to comply with this guidance. There is no specified end date to these orders. “It is unlikely that we will transition to a lower HPCON level in the near future due to the trend of rising case numbers in our local area,” said Whitmire. “We must all work together to attain a lower HPCON level, and that includes social distancing, frequent handwashing and staying home if you are sick. If we follow the CDC guidelines we can make it through this.”