Fort Meade’s Facebook Live Town Hall session on June 18 introduced Col. Tracy Michael, the new commander of Fort Meade’s U.S. Army Medical Department Activity and Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, and offered insight on what to expect when the Health Protection Condition level moves from Charlie to Bravo.
Michael and Francisco Jamison, division chief of Child and Youth Services, joined Garrison Commander Col. Erich C. Spragg on the panel.
Kicking off the Town Hall, Spragg stressed that there is still no firm timetable for lowering the HPCON level, but addressed the expectations once phased reopenings begin.
“We are inching closer,” Spragg said. “But I don’t want to create a false expectation that Bravo Day means all services will open right away.”
Mission-essential services will be the first to open under HPCON Bravo, Spragg said. If after two weeks there are no complications, everything else that’s approved for Bravo will follow.
Spragg said the services and businesses already approved to open under HPCON Bravo include CYS, playgrounds, outdoor recreation, gyms, Arts and Crafts Center, Automotive Skills Center, Post Thrift Shop and the Pin Deck Café at the Fort Meade Bowling Center.
At the Fort Meade Exchange, Game Stop, the Patriot Tactical Store and indoor dining at the food court are also approved for HPCON Bravo.
“It’s going to be a deliberate transition starting with essential services and working our way down,” Spragg said.
In the questions segment at the end of the Town Hall, Spragg addressed the protocol if COVID-19 cases spike.
The schedule for every service that is set to open under HPCON Bravo is subject to change, even after they open, Spragg said.
For instance, a reported infection in a child care facility would lead to quarantine for anyone exposed to the case, Spragg said. The opening of additional child care facilities could be affected.
Spragg said it is likely that HPCON levels would be adjusted appropriately if cases spike.
“That’s not only to protect you, it’s to protect the other 57,000 people who work and live here on Fort Meade,” Spragg said.
‘Great To Be Back’
Michael said he was excited to be back at Fort Meade, where he was a battalion commander from 2015 to 2017.
“I understand what a great community this is,” Michael said. “We have a great team there.
“We have a laser focus on providing safe, quality, patient-centered care to all of our beneficiaries. And we’re focused on improving readiness across the Fort Meade community.”
After detailing his military background — including his transition from enlisting to becoming a noncommissioned officer and completing ROTC at the University of Washington in Seattle — Michael provided updates for several medical services.
An offsite location opened on June 18 to provide additional COVID-19 testing.
“It went very well,” Michael said. “We’re going to continue to refine that process so that it’s responsive to the needs of our partners at Fort Meade.”
Vision screenings are available on a walk-in basis from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hearing exams are also available by appointment, Michael said.
Curbside pharmacy is set to continue for the foreseeable future, but Michael urged the Fort Meade community to be patient with the service, especially as summer progresses.
“Please realize our pharmacy teams are working hard,” Michael said. “The weather is warming up a bit, so please [understand] the physical demands. We just ask your patience as we process your prescriptions.
“We want to do it, but we want to do it safely. We don’t want to jeopardize the safety of our staff for speed.”
In his segment, Jamison said parents will not be accompanying their children inside child care facilities when they arrive, but will drop them off at the curb to help reduce the risk of infection.
“When we reopen, we’ll be adhering to social distancing and [every other] health code and precaution,” Jamison said.
Though no facility has opened yet, Jamison said CYS staff is actively prepping the buildings and classrooms for reopening.
There will be three phases of reopening: Child Development Center III and School Age Center I will be the first to open, followed by CDC I and SAC II and, finally, CDC IV and the Youth Center.
Each phase will have a two-week buffer, provided no complications arise.
When facilities begin to open, child care will be operating at less than 50% capacity. Single and dual active-duty families will be given priority. But Jamison stressed that not all of those families will be able to secure child care during the first phase of openings.
Those who do not get in initially will be given priority during the second phase.
During the questioning segment of the Town Hall, Jamison explained the general criteria for prioritizing single and dual active-duty families. Parents who are mission essential are top priority.
Jamison said the next priority is determined by the age of the children, as there are a finite number of spots available for each age group.
After that, priority is determined by seniority. Families who have received child care the longest will be given higher priority.
This story originally ran in the Ft. Meade Soundoff on June 25, 2020.