Wright-Patt requires masks for all as COVID cases rise

Rising COVID-19 transmission rates have caused renewed mask mandates at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Dayton City Hall, as well as the recommendation masks be worn at other indoor public spaces throughout Montgomery and Greene counties.

Wright-Patterson will temporarily require masks for everyone on base with limited exceptions, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, along with other measures such as having some people work from home to reduce workplace occupancy.

Col. Christopher Meeker, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, announced Monday evening that he would transition the base to HPCON Charlie, effective 6 a.m. Tuesday, in response to steadily rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Greene and Montgomery counties.

The U.S. Department of Defense health protection condition levels are based on risk levels within a local community. Charlie indicates sustained community transmission.

“We will continue to consistently apply DoD and Air Force guidance as CDC data for the local community changes,” Meeker said.

Montgomery and Greene counties were recently elevated to “high” in the CDC’s system for tracking and mitigating COVID spread. This means indoor masking — regardless of vaccination status — is recommended indoors in public settings.

Ohio added 24,465 new COVID cases last week, bringing its total to more than 2.89 million cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Last week’s total was the most the state has reported since March when it moved to weekly updates.

In addition to masks at the base, screening testing is mandatory for unvaccinated personnel. Also, work spaces, when possible, and social gatherings will be limited to less than 50% of room occupancy.

“Public health officials noted, that national trends indicate that this latest wave is transitory and community levels are expected to reduce back to low in short time,” says a release from the 88th Air Base Wing.

The Dayton Daily News asked Air Force officials about how occupancy changes would be managed at the state’s largest single-site employer with 30,000 military and civilian workers, as well as how this will impact base services, but officials said they were unable to respond Tuesday.

The city of Dayton on Tuesday announced that all visitors must wear masks until further notice, including to the city commission meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday. Dayton employees already are required to wear masks in city buildings.

At Wright-Patterson, indoor mask-wearing is required for all individuals, including service members, base civilian and contractor personnel and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. A release from Wright-Patterson includes a list of exceptions to the mask rule, such as when individuals are alone in an office or when masking is not feasible or creates a hazard.

“All community support, morale and business functions will remain open with additional restrictions in place for mask wear and spacing,” the release says. “Specific event and scheduling information for each function will be advertised on all official base communication platforms.”

Wright-Patterson Medical Center has booster shots available to all eligible beneficiaries. Booster shots are not mandatory, but having one eliminates the need to quarantine at home for five days if identified as a close contact, according to the release.

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