As Italy begins to enter its COVID-19 transition phase by slowly reopening the country, Army Col. Daniel J. Vogel, the U.S. Army Garrison Italy commander, outlined the recovery plan for post operations and services.
"Our greatest concern is the risk involved in spreading the infection as we bring additional base operations and services back online," Vogel said May 1 during a weekly COVID-19 town hall meeting. "History of past pandemics has shown us a second wave of infections may occur if we move too quickly in too little time."
At the heart of the garrison recovery plan is a uniform process in which Task Force Recovery working groups will review recommendations from directors, managers and officers in charge for reopening their respective services.
"Task Force Recovery created a template to present which we call a 'baseball card'" Vogel explained. "This template requires the provider to describe how they intend to operate their service, identify mitigation measures that will require meeting all safety protocols, and resources required to restore any service."
Every Thursday, the recommendations to reopen services will be reviewed by the senior responsible officer for USAG Italy, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the commanding officer of U.S. Army Africa, who will make the decision to reopen or keep a service closed.
"We need to make the right decisions to protect the force, stop the spread and maintain readiness," Vogel said.
As with other garrisons throughout Europe, a risk assessment is at the heart of the garrison recovery plan. Base operations and services restoration have been categorized as low, medium, or high risk of infection.
"Low-risk services may be relatively easy to reopen," Vogel said. "The decision to reopen a medium-risk operation will be decided by the SRO. High-risk operations will require approval from U.S. Army Europe."
While a new Veneto Region ordinance that took effect May 3 relaxed protective measures, with more decrees expected if infection rates remain low, restoring base operations and services won't be fast, Vogel warned.
"Garrisons throughout Europe,…not just here, … will take one additional precaution," he said. "Following any host-nation decree, we will trail that decision by a minimum of 72 hours. It could be up to 14 days to allow for a full period of incubation to pass. Don't expect change to be immediate."
While many in the Vicenza and Camp Darby communities have experienced stress and frustration over the past two months, leaders are hopeful that the Recovery Task Force process will ultimately improve services and make USAG Italy a better workplace for federal and Italian professionals.
"How we operate in the near future will be fundamentally different than the period before COVID-19," Vogel said. "I am asking our directorates, tenant units and organizations to find new and innovative ways to deliver services in an environment where COVID-19 exists."
"We are focusing on increasing our technology capabilities to provide more services in a virtual manner," he continued. "We embraced and will continue to support a culture of telework and flexible work schedules. We are reconfiguring common areas to limit crowds and eliminate lines. We are pursuing software applications to support online appointment scheduling. We are also looking at ways and means to make the community more resilient into the future."
(James Brooks is assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Italy.)