FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 30, 2020) -- The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not going away anytime soon, and Fort Drum officials caution community members to stay vigilant throughout the July 4 holiday weekend and beyond.
During a virtual town hall on June 30, Col. Jeffery Lucas, Fort Drum garrison commander, reviewed the current COVID-19 response measures and answered questions posted on social media.
Lucas said that the command team has been careful in prioritizing re-openings on post based on Department of Defense guidelines and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, while also maintaining response measures for travel and visitor access. While adhering to these measure may be wearing on some community members month after month, Lucas said these were the hard decisions necessary to provide a safe environment – or “safety bubble” – for everyone.
“Even though we don’t need the reminder, the pandemic is ongoing,” he said. “We must remain vigilant, especially going into the holiday weekend. It’s important for us, and absolutely paramount to remember, that we have to protect our bubble.”
Several questions were raised regarding allowable travel, exceptions to policy (ETP) under General Order 1D and visiting Fort Drum.
“We are still operating under General Order 1D, and we are asking for non-Department of Defense cardholders to have an exception to policy if they want to visit the installation,” Lucas said.
He said that ETPs are approved through a Soldier’s chain of command, and it is required even for those who live within the 60-mile radius deemed a “safe zone.” The approval authority for those who don’t necessarily fall under a military chain of command is the garrison commander.
Family members who want to meet their Soldiers – not on post, but within the authorized 200-mile travel radius – can do so without an ETP. Mark Martin, from the Office of the G1, said that they should still consider any risks and the possibility that the Soldier will be required to quarantine afterward. Regarding the amount of time it takes for an ETP to be approved, Martin said that it is usually processed within 24 hours once it reaches the G1 level unless additional documentation is needed.
Lucas explained that the 200-mile travel radius, under General Order 1D, was implemented because it was determined to have the least amount of risk for virus exposure and transmission.
“We want to ensure that everyone who crosses through our access control points has a bona fide need to be on the installation,” he said. “By and large, we have been doing a very good job with that over the last several months. As I often do in these forums, I ask for your continued patience and continued vigilance as we strive to protect our bubble.”
Lucas said that it is often asked how long these policies will remain in place.
“What I can see now, I expect we will be in this posture for a very long time,” he said. “More specifically, in the environment that we have around us, what we see are a number of indications that the nation, as a whole, may in fact be headed for a spike or a second wave of the pandemic. As such, it is really incumbent upon us, as we protect our bubble, as we continue to do the most that we can to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, that we keep some of the access control measures in place.”
Lucas said that he doesn’t see a change in the gym attire policy for Soldiers at the fitness center until restrictions are lifted allowing family members, retirees and civilians to return. Currently, patrons must wear their Army physical fitness uniform upon entering the facilities.
“For those who find that to be unnecessarily harsh or even a hardship, I own that recommendation,” he said. “If they are in uniform, then we know they are Soldiers. Frankly, it helps my team identify what’s going on in the facilities, and I appreciate everyone’s support on that.”
Sharon Addison, Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, said there are many recreational opportunities for community members to enjoy within the 200-mile travel radius, and many can be found on the installation. More information can be found at https://drum.armymwr.com.
She also encouraged people to explore the various hiking and biking trails, zoos, farms and boat tours in the North Country.
Recent changes on post include:
*The Pine Plains Bowling Center will reopen July 2, limited to groups of four or a family of six. The center will operate at 50-percent capacity, patrons must wear face coverings, and physical distancing will be observed.
*The 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum will reopen July 7 with normal business hours.
*The Commons will reopen July 13 for lunch service and event catering.
*In-person worship services at a 25-percent maximum capacity will begin July 5 with COVID-19 safety measures in place, to include the wearing of face coverings and physical distancing.
For more information about COVID-19 restrictions on post, facility openings and more, visit www.home.army.mil/drum.
It is generally acknowledged by medical experts that the most effective defense against the spread of COVID-19 has been the guidelines established early on: physical distancing, wearing face coverings and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Lucas said that he hopes community members will enjoy the holiday weekend, focus on what they can do over what they can’t, and stay safe.