The U.S. Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon held a COVID Response Town Hall on Nov. 5. The previous one was held Oct. 16, at which time it was announced that the installation had transitioned to Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Bravo.
With little having changed since then, Maj. Gen. Neil S. Hersey, Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, said that although the decision to go to HPCON Bravo was a move in the right direction, now is not the time for anyone to let their guard down.
“The COVID-19 crisis is nowhere near over and must be taken very seriously by everyone here on Fort Gordon and in our community,” Hersey said during his opening remarks.
General Order No. 1, dated Oct. 5, remains in effect. Changes to the order included permission to dine off-post, indoor dining, use of off-post fitness centers, and more flexibility with leave requests. Still, the commanding general urged everyone to do so using good judgment.
“As always, if you intend to go off the installation, do so in a safe and healthy manner,” Hersey said.
Reinforcing his priorities, Hersey went on to say that he and other senior leaders continue to work closely with health care professionals and community leaders – on and off the installation – to ensure the safety and health of everyone.
“We have updates daily from our health care professionals, we’re watching what’s coming out of the CDC and making informed decisions with all the leadership teams here when things change, so we are prepared,” Hersey said. “I ask that you do the same with your friends and family in the community.”
Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Shaw Pick said he feels “cautiously optimistic” with regards to maintaining the current HPCON level and where the installation appears to be heading.
“We have not seen a major spike in cases since that time, so from this, I am taking that folks are doing the big three things: they’re masking up, they’re spacing out, and they’re washing their hands often,” Pick said.
As a result, access to the installation, for the most part, he said, has returned to normal. Standard visitor passes may be issued to those who are eligible, and the Visitor Control Center is now open on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help facilitate those requesting a pass.
“All services, in some form or fashion, are functioning,” Pick said. “We are just doing it very differently.”
Col. Brandon Pretlow, Eisenhower Army Medical Center deputy commanding officer, said that hospital staff continues efforts to restore health care in a safe manner. A part of that process required that the curbside pharmacy be discontinued and that pharmacy services transition back to being inside; something he explained was necessary.
“As we continue to restore services throughout the rest of the hospital, that same staff that supported the curbside pharmacy service had to go back to their normal duties and normal operations,” he said.
Pretlow also said the hospital has received the influenza vaccine and will begin offering it to all active-duty service members on Nov. 17, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., during an event Barton Field.
“It’s a pretty efficient exercise, so you can come out, get in line … get your shot, and move out,” Pretlow said.
There will also be an opportunity for U.S. Army Cyber Command and National Security Agency-Georgia to receive the vaccine on Nov. 19, and a drive-thru event for all beneficiaries and active-duty personnel who still need it on Nov. 21, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the EAMC staff parking lot.
“You just drive up – don’t even have to get out of your car – and we’ll have teammates there to take care of all the beneficiaries and folks that need their flu shots,” he said.
Hospital staff and Soldier-trainees have already received the vaccine.
Addressing holiday block leave, Col. Edward Kendall, 15th Signal Brigade commander said plans are well underway to get Soldiers home for the holidays. The commander touched on general information pertaining to the highly-anticipated event while stressing the need for open communication leading up to and during block leave.
“As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving pieces in a very short timeframe, and just that open communication is really going to be vital for everybody in having a smooth, successful transition home and then reintegration back into Fort Gordon,” Kendall said.
Upon return to Fort Gordon, all Soldiers will be screened for COVID 19 and will enter a 14-day restriction of movement.
“That will take place within the barracks and dining facilities here with the purpose of re-establishing that safe environment,” Kendall said.
Soldiers who do not take leave will remain at Fort Gordon and be able to participate in planned activities and events throughout the holiday season.
Following remarks, the town hall was open for viewers to ask questions of the leaders.
In closing, Hersey thanked everyone for their participation and feedback.
“That plays a critical role as we really strive for the unity of effort in response [and] actions for Fort Gordon and the surrounding communities,” Hersey said.
The next virtual town hall will be Dec. 10 at 11 a.m.
The latest version of General Order No. 1 can be found on the Fort Gordon Facebook page and by visiting the Fort Gordon homepage at home.army.mil/gordon/index.php/coronavirus.
For footage of the town hall and a link for the slides shown, visit the Fort Gordon Facebook page.