Moving slowly toward HPCON Level Bravo

By Lisa R. RhodesMay 23, 2023

Town Hall outlines phased reopening of Fort Meade services, operations

Fort Meade’s Facebook Live Town Hall session on June11focused on the measured and conditional reopening of Fort Meade as the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic may reduce over time.

Garrison Commander Col. Erich C. Spragg and Col. James Burk, commander of Fort Meade’s Medical Department Activity and Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, updated the Fort Meade community on the installation’s status regarding COVID-19, the conditions for lowering the pandemic’s threat to HPCON Level Bravo and answered questions from the Facebook audience.

The Town Hall was Burk’s last session before stepping down from his post. His change-of-command ceremony is today at 10 a.m. at the main entrance of Kimbrough.

Burk’s next assignment will be at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Burk’s successor is Col. Tracy Michael, director of public affairs in the Office of the Surgeon General. Michael attended the Town Hall to formally introduce himself to the Fort Meade community.

“It’s great to be back,” said Michael, who once served at Fort Meade as a battalion commander. “I’m looking forward to serving.”

‘Continued Patience’

The Town Hall began with an assessment of Kimbrough’s operations and services.

Kimbrough has updated the telephone lines at its main pharmacy to meet the demands of its curbside service for filling prescriptions, said Burk.

The clinic, he said, is operating in “smooth waters” in its capacity to serve the Fort Meade community. Kimbrough is now better able to “get your calls, get your prescriptions and get those out to you in a timely manner,” Burk said.

Burk asked for the community’s “continued patience” as Kimbrough slowly adapts its services and operations to return to their full capacity.

However, he did note that many of the pharmacy’s runners “received a lot of verbal abuse” from beneficiaries during the initial phases of the curbside service and upgrading of telephone lines.

“When we rolled out this curbside service, I clearly stated that it is a service we are offering to protect you,” Burk said. “Our teams are working our very best to provide this as an expedient service for you.”

Burk said curbside pickup is the only alternative to crowded waiting rooms.

“What I cannot have is 100 to 150 people in our waiting area, waiting to pick up their prescriptions,” without being able to comply with social distancing requirements, Burk said.

“I’m asking for your patience. I feel very confident that the system ... can provide better and timely service,” he said.

Burk also asked the Fort Meade community to “provide a level of respect” to all of Kimbrough’s staff.

Burk noted that Kimbrough’s Audiology Department is booking exams through July for active-duty service members. In addition, DentalClinic#3 is providing routine dental exams for active-duty service members as well.

Kimbrough is also enforcing touchless temperature scans and a screening questionnaire.

Deliberately Cautious In his remarks, Spragg said he understands that “patience is wearing thin” for many in the Fort Meade community who are watching the reopening of Maryland’s counties to Phase I and Phase II levels while many of the installation’s services and operations remain closed.

Spragg said county executives are slowly reopening to “get their economies back on track” as soon as possible while “ensuring public health.”

“That’s not the case for us,” he said. “We must balance the risk between the health of our force, our service members, our DoD civilians and their family members and our ability to continue our critical security and intelligence missions.”

Spragg said the military’s institution of HPCON Level Charlie means that Fort Meade “will be deliberate” in deciding when and how it will reopen.

“There is no date or timeline for our plans to reopen services, as our decision as to when services reopens depends on conditions,” he said.

Spragg listed four conditions to reduce the HPCON level to HPCON Bravo:

■ The capacity to treat the disease

■ The capacity to test for the disease

■ The capacity to monitor for the disease

■ A 14-day trend of reported case numbers lowering

Once Fort Meade’s status is lowered to HPCON Bravo, Spragg said he will consider resuming several services and operations—including gyms, community pools and child care facilities — in consultation with Fort Meade’s higher command.

Spragg said when reopenings go forward, Gaffney Fitness Center will be the first gym to open its doors. The facility will only be open to a limited number of active-duty service members for a limited amount of time each day.

To open the post’s community pools, the garrison and Corvias leadership will follow guidance issued at next week’s second Installation Management Command’s housing summit.

Child Care Placement

The reopening of Fort Meade’s child care and youth facilities will take place in phases. Spragg said Fort Meade’s child care facilities—four Child Development Centers, two School Age Centers, seven

Family Child Care homes, and one Youth Center — have a maximum capacity of approximately 432.

The first facilities to open will be CDC III and School Age Center I.

Child placement will be conducted according to the DoD’s priority placement program. Military parents who completed the mission-essential determination form, along with the required approvals, will be notified by Child and Youth Services staff about their children’s placement.

Spragg said it is likely that some families may not be accommodated with the current level of available slots. He advised military parents to discuss their child care needs with their chain of command.

The commander also spoke about the DoD’s stop-movement policy and the travel restrictions to areas outside a service member’s locale, including a permanent change-of-duty station.

Spragg encouraged service members who have questions about their status to speak with their unit’s S-1 or personnel office.

Spragg also addressed the four-way traffic light at the intersection of Reece Road and MacArthur Avenue, which he said has the fewest traffic problems compared to other intersections on post.

Distracted Driving

Spragg said DES has determined that the four-way traffic light is not an issue, but distracted driving at the intersection is a concern. He said a military police presence is being assigned to the area to watch out for distracted drivers.

Before the close of the Town Hall, Spragg and Burk answered questions from the Facebook audience. Questions ranged from scheduling in-person appointments at Kimbrough and the status of Fort Meade schools in the fall to restocking Burba Lake and the schedule of when nonessential employees can return to work.

Spragg took a moment to thank Burk for his leadership at Kimbrough and his service to Fort Meade, particularly during the pandemic.

“You have been an absolute treasure and an invaluable partner through this whole COVID-19 [situation],” Spragg said.

Burk called his time at Fort Meade “an absolute honor” and welcomed Michael, whom he called a “very capable leader,” to Team Meade.