WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE — With positive COVID-19 cases on the rise again in Johnson County and across Missouri, Whiteman Air Force Base has declared a public health emergency and is reimplementing COVID safety measures for base personnel.
WAFB officials announced on Sunday, July 25, that to help combat the spread of COVID-19, they have released an update supplementing existing Department of Defense guidance on the use of cloth face coverings.
A WAFB press release stated that beginning Monday, July 26, all individuals on installation property would again be required to wear cloth face coverings at all times when indoors and when the maintenance of 6 feet of physical distance in outdoor work areas is not possible, regardless of personal vaccination status.
Base public health officials observed recent increases in COVID-19 cases in Missouri and local counties and advised the updated guidance to improve installation protective measures against the growing risk of community spread.
The following guidance was made effective on July 26:
• Masks are to be worn by all personnel, regardless of vaccination status, in all facilities on the installation and when unable to socially distance outdoors. Active duty members, regardless of vaccination status, are required to follow this both on and off base.
• Units are responsible for defining the appropriate number of people allowed in work centers and event space based on the ability to social distance.
• The CDC and Youth Center will maintain current capacity and current mask policies.
• The installation dining areas will be kept open.
• Masks are to be worn in the fitness center if not actively working out in the weight room/cardio room/basketball court.
• No changes were made to organized sports or PT testing policies.
• No travel radius was implemented for members on leave or pass status.
• Medical Group COVID testing is for medical necessity or official travel only. COVID testing for unofficial travel will need to be coordinated with off-base providers.
WAFB states this guidance applies to Total-Force military personnel, DOD civilian employees and contractors, family members and all individuals visiting base facilities.
“Every adjustment to our public health measures is carefully considered and not taken lightly,” Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander, said in the release. “We take this step with the best interest of our personnel and our mission readiness in mind. All members of our teams are vital to our success and task of providing the nation with persistent strategic deterrence and lethal global strike capability. Everyone’s continued commitment to fighting the spread of COVID-19 is critical."
WAFB stated that the exemptions to the guidance are:
• Children under the age of 2 should not wear a face covering due to potential choking/suffocation hazards.
• Any accompanied minor with a medical condition or mental special needs that makes wearing a face covering difficult or potentially hazardous.
• A face covering must be worn into the WAFB Fitness Center. Face coverings may be removed while actively performing cardiovascular exercise (running, biking, elliptical). Face coverings should be re-donned after completion of cardiovascular exercise.
• Face coverings are required at WAFB pools. However, they are not required while actually swimming.
Airmen are advised to contact their chain of command with any questions regarding the policies or any of the associated changes.
"Team, we need your help with stopping this spike before it gets out of hand and causes further impact," Diehl said in the release. "Getting back to the basics now will ensure that we can continue to accomplish our mission while allowing us to more quickly return to normal."
Additionally, following the base’s Public Health Emergency Officer’s (PHEO) recommendations and increases in the local case numbers, to include hospitalizations, Diehl declared a public health emergency on July 26.
WAFB previously lifted the public health emergency status for the installation and its personnel on April 28.
This declaration will terminate automatically in 90 days unless it is renewed and re-reported or terminated sooner by Diehl or a senior commander in the chain of command.
The PHEO and medical personnel have been directed to identify, confirm and control the public health emergency.
Diehl stated that the PHEO may issue guidance that affects installation personnel and property, and other individuals working, residing or visiting this installation (such as closing base facilities, restricting movement or implementing quarantine for select individuals).
Diehl stated the installation command and the PHEO will coordinate activities and share information with federal, state and local officials responsible for public health and public safety to ensure the base’s response is appropriate for the public health emergency.
Diehl stated that any person who refuses to obey or otherwise violates an order during this declared public health emergency may be detained. Those not subject to military law may be detained until civil authorities can respond.
Violators of procedures, protocols, provisions and/or orders issued in conjunction with the public health emergency may be charged with a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or under United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 271. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 271, violators are subject to a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment for not more than one year or both.