FORT KNOX, Ky. — Although he now sits for much of the duty day, Master Sgt. Mark Bolin is not sitting out the COVID-19 pandemic — in fact, he’s a Soldier on the front lines, standing guard.
Since mid-March, Bolin has screened patients and staff entering the medical facilities at Fort Knox. Normally an Army Recruiter screening future Soldiers, he’s adapted to this public health mission which, much like recruiting, involves saying either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to people seeking entry.
Bolin and fellow Soldiers like Corporal Dylan Huneycutt protect Fort Knox Installation facilities against the Coronavirus, by asking questions and checking temperatures to screen individuals.
“The two questions we ask are ‘Have you been exposed to COVID-19?’ and ‘Are you experiencing any type of cold or flu-like symptoms?’” says Bolin.
If someone says ‘Yes,’ or is symptomatic, building access is denied. Yet customer service isn’t.
“If they are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, we actually take down their personal information here at the [Binter Street] Pharmacy. We give it to the pharmacist. We ask them to go back out to their cars and wait. Once the pharmacist fills their prescription, we take their prescription back out to the car so they’re not coming into the building spreading any type of possible germs.
“On average, most people coming in have been clear. The biggest issue we run into, if anything, is face masks; but that is becoming less of an issue,” Bolin stated.
Medical Command policy mandates the wearing of face masks into MEDDAC facilities.
“If they don’t have a face mask, we would do the same type of treatment: take their information, tell them to please sit in their car — even if they haven’t been exposed to someone with symptoms or said ‘No' [to the screening questions].”
Recruiters tasked as COVID-19 screeners aren’t the only ones adjusting their sitting habits during the pandemic. To comply with CDC social distancing guidelines, the Binter Street Pharmacy no longer offers chairs to customers in the waiting room.
Car seats reclined, Rob Schriner and his wife wait in their vehicle in the pharmacy parking lot, relaxing with the air-conditioning on. Schriner, a retired 25-year U.S. Air Force veteran, has noticed an uptick in pharmacy wait times since the battle against COVID-19 began. Yet he hardly seems phased, “Wait times are a little longer than what they were. You used to wait about an hour, now we’re up to about 2 hours. It’s still worth the wait.
“The pharmacy is great. Being a retiree, the pharmacy has free prescriptions for retirees, no copays.”
‘Dug in’ at the front door, Master Sgt. Bolin knows his job is on the front lines, “We get a lot of thanks and appreciation from Retirees and Servicemembers who use Binter Pharmacy, so it does give you that feeling that you’re making a difference and you’re helping to prevent the spread.”
Whether it’s standing by for the next person to screen or patiently waiting in the pharmacy parking lot, the Fort Knox community is taking the pandemic in 2020 seriously — and in stride.