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ASCII (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

I have some important messages to share with the team at the Army Sustainment Command and Rock Island Arsenal.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living through unprecedented times. No one knows how the coronavirus outbreak will end, when it will end, or what it will all mean in the long run. Right now, though, we have to deal with the near-term challenges presented by the outbreak. In the last few weeks, things have changed by the day – and sometimes by the hour, or even the minute. I expect that the changes and challenges will continue to come at us hard and fast, and that we’ll continue to need to adjust and adapt as needed.

I know you’ve probably been dealing with some anxiety and confusion lately, and maybe a little fear as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – and to be honest with you, I’ve had those feelings myself. But it’s how we deal with those feelings, and how we refuse to let them prevent us from doing what needs to be done, that really matters.

From where I sit, I can say that you’ve dealt with this situation like true professionals. We are getting our jobs done and our overall mission of supporting the warfighter is being accomplished, despite all that we’ve faced. Because of the way you’ve reacted, I’ve never been prouder to be in the Army.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve gradually increased our methods for protecting our people from the coronavirus outbreak. Throughout this process, we’ve done our best to follow guidelines issued by Army health organizations and by the Centers for Disease Control.

Now, we’re ratcheting up our precautions even further, again in line with guidance from health organizations and the CDC. You’ve probably heard that an ASC Headquarters employee who worked in Building 390 was diagnosed with COVID-19. This is not the reason why we’ve gone to a higher health protection level; in fact, all Department of Defense installations have now gone to that higher level, and cases of COVID-19 have been detected at a number of DoD installations, not just here.

I believe we took appropriate actions after hearing of this diagnosis. We’ve informed all the coworkers who we know were in contact with this individual and told them to self-quarantine. We deep-cleaned and sanitized the work area, and we’re cleaning in other areas as well. Again, we’re following the guidelines as best we can to prevent the spread of the virus.

As far as the overall Arsenal workforce goes, the main measure we’ve taken to protect you is to severely restrict access to the installation and to the workplace. So for now, and for the time being, the only employees who will be allowed on the Arsenal and into work areas will be those deemed key and essential.

Frankly, I really hate using that term, but it’s all we got. Let me be clear: You are all essential to the performance of our mission. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. If you’re not designated as key and essential, that doesn’t mean you’re somehow less important. So, I apologize for having to use these words, but sometimes language has its limitations.

In this particular case, a key and essential employee is one who performs tasks that requires his or her physical presence in the work area. And there are tasks we perform that simply cannot be done remotely.

Your supervisor will tell you if you are key and essential, meaning that you are required to be here on the Arsenal at least part of the time. If you are not told that you are one of these key and essential employees, do not come into work – repeat, do NOT come into work.

We’ve done a scrub and identified key and essential employees, and we’ve kept that number to a bare minimum. Note that as time goes on, this list may change – but I expect everything to keep changing.

We’re also trying to minimize the amount of time key and essential employees spend in the work area. If there are tasks they can perform just as well at home, they’ll be directed to do them at home.

And, most importantly, we’ll do all we can to protect our key and essential employees when they are in the workplace. This includes thorough cleaning of work areas, lots of hand washing and hand sanitizing, and social distancing, to include limiting meetings, limiting the number of people in meetings, and spacing people at least six feet apart in meetings and in their work areas.

One more thing about key and essential employees – if they are the least bit ill or not feeling well, they are being told to stay home. Anyone who comes in looking or acting sick will be asked to leave.

Speaking to everyone, if you do feel sick, don’t leave the house. Seek medical care if you need it, and follow doctor’s orders. I’ve been guilty myself of trying to tough it out when I’ve been sick – well, now is not the time for that tough-guy attitude. Seriously, if you go out while you’re sick, you’re putting both yourself and others in danger. So don’t do it.

Now I need to say some things about installation access overall. It is, to say the least, very restricted. Retirees and other eligible individuals will still be allowed to visit the health clinic and to pick up prescriptions. Access to the PX and commissary is also being restricted to individuals who live on the Arsenal. We’re not allowing people in to visit the graves of their loved ones at the cemetery. Burials are being limited, as is the number of mourners who can attend burials.

These changes will obviously impact individuals in the community and the community at large, and we are working with community leaders to find ways to lessen the impact. This is a caring community that supports the Arsenal in particular and the military in general, and I’m confident that we can work through these issues.

To emphasize a point I made earlier, and that I just can’t say enough – things are going to change, and they’re probably going to change fast. Stay informed, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be prepared to adapt and adjust.

Finally, I would encourage you to take care of yourself and take care of your family. Try to eat right, exercise, sleep well, and rest and relax. Keep in touch with your family and friends, while maintaining social distancing of course. Wash your hands frequently.

There will be some tough days to come in the near future, and there are going to be plenty of bumps in the road. But I’m confident that, in the long run, we’ll get through this together. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll make it.

Thank you, and best wishes to all of you.

Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro

Commanding General

U.S. Army Sustainment Command

Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois

Note: This commentary has been updated. Before it stated retirees were no longer permitted on post to visit the clinic except for special circumstances and to fill prescriptions. It now states they are permitted for normal use (pending further HQDA guidance).