FORT BENNING, Ga. - Fort Benning has adopted measures to protect its community in the face of the COVID-19 virus, steps that include screening for it, and setting up isolated areas to care for those who may be infected, its top leader announced.
No COVID-19 cases have been identified at Fort Benning, but officials are determined to stay ready in any case, said Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, in a March 5 letter to the Fort Benning community.
The measures are aligned with those put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and revention, Brito said.
MCoE trains the Army's Infantry and Armor forces, including thousands of young recruits a year who are slated for service with those forces.
Headed "Dear Soldiers, Civilians and Families of Fort Benning," Brito's letter outlines the steps being taken.
"At this time, there are no known cases of this virus reported on Fort Benning," Brito said.
"Should a case come to our attention, the entire team will take immediate measures to address it," he said. "I will do everything within my power to preserve the health of the Fort Benning community and to keep each of you fully informed about actions we are taking."
Under the measures, Fort Benning will, among other actions:
- Screen recruits arriving here for initial training for COVID-19.
- Limit travel of Soldiers slated for temporary training assignments in places where the virus has emerged, whether overseas or in the United States.
- Monitor the health of those Soldiers, civilians and Family members arriving for new assignments here, from those same areas of concern, whether overseas or in the United States.
- Provide online and other means by which the Fort Benning community, including employees, residents and visitors, can get the latest COVID-19 information, and submit questions and concerns.
Fort Benning has set up such a forum on Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BenningCOVID19forum/?source_id=265710996909724. Those visiting the site must log in to their Facebook accounts.
Brito asked community members to "review" the CDC's measures online. They're at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html.
"I'm asking everyone to review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures online, practice good hygiene, and do not come to work and spread your illness to others if you are sick."
Those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have been in close contact with someone known to have or have been exposed to COVID-19, or have traveled to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Japan within the past two weeks, should contact their medical provider or emergency room and "let them know you meet the screening criteria for COVID-19," said Brito.
They can also contact the 1-800 Tricare Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-874-2273, menu option 1.
"The screening criteria is critical," said Brito, "for three reasons: to identify a possible case of COVID-19 and get proper medical attention; prevent use of vital medical resources for an illness besides COVID-19; and limit exposure to others.
"We anticipate the number of impacted countries and areas within the United States will increase and will provide updates accordingly," Brito said.
Throughout, officials here will maintain "transparency," said Brito, not only with the Fort Benning community but with local communities.
"We will share all actions with the city of Columbus and surrounding area," he said.
"As the Commander of Fort Benning, I assure you that I am aware of and share your concern," Brito said. "I take this very seriously and want to ensure you that the entirety of this command is involved in the planning for any contingencies should they arise. We intend to be fully transparent.
"Health protection is our top priority!" said Brito. "As a team, let's stay calm and work through this at Fort Benning and in our surrounding communities."