Maj. Elizabeth Patricola, from Fox Army Health Center, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine administered by Tamiris Centeno, a public health nurse at Fox.
Maj. Elizabeth Patricola, from Fox Army Health Center, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine administered by Tamiris Centeno, a public health nurse at Fox. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Stinson) VIEW ORIGINAL

The COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront of employees’ personal and professional lives since March 2020, and many have begun to take advantage of communities safely opening back up. Army Materiel Command’s Command Surgeon Col. Matt Hoefer hosted a COVID-19 update May 11 to address the workforce’s questions and provide an update on COVID-19 topics including vaccination, protection, and where the Army and AMC stand now in its approach to mitigating the virus.

As of May 1, vaccines are available to all adults and children over the age of 12. Right now, about 125 million Americans, or 38% of the population, are fully vaccinated. Hoefer said because of that, there’s been a decrease in velocity to the vaccine program and many distributors have extra vaccines to distribute.

Vaccination is still voluntary and will be for the foreseeable future. Hoefer said that decision point would only change if one of the vaccines was fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and then the Department of Defense would have the option to consider mandatory vaccination. Full approval likely depends on the Phase 4 research that’s currently being conducted regarding how cyclical the vaccine’s effectiveness is. This research is expected to be released around late summer or early fall of 2021.

The CDC is currently on a plan to open up and allow more safe movement in the United States, and the Army is following their guidance and is changing its COVID-19 operations day-by-day.

“The Army typically lags behind the CDC by 2 to 4 weeks,” Hoefer explained. “Part of that is just how we operate; we make sure we put all our new rules and policies through the orders process and they have to trickle down from the Department of Defense to you as an employee.”

At AMC, employees can continue maximum telework, at least through the end of May. For those that do come to work, fully vaccinated personnel are no longer required to wear a mask indoors. Wearing masks is still required for unvaccinated personnel.

Hoefer closed his update session by saying as we develop immunity, we can expect a gradual reduction to restriction of movement and travel requirements. Protective measures will remain in place as socialization increases, and restrictions are expected to loosen more over the summer months.

Moving forward, Hoefer said AMC will do update sessions regarding policy changes and will address questions from previous sessions.

To follow current COVID case and vaccination data and trends, visit the CDC Website at cdc.gov.

COVID-19 Timeline

March 1, 2020: COVID-19 outbreak is declared a national emergency

March 19, 2020: AMC HQs and MSCs directs maximum telework status

March 24, 2020: Medical Treatment Facilities postpone all elective surgeries, invasive procedures, and dental procedures for beneficiaries

March 24, 2020: DOD stops international travel movement to prevent COVID-19 spread (including PCS, TDY, government-funded leave)

March 25, 2020: DOD categorizes all Commissaries and Op Support Facilities and their employees as mission critical; Commissary managers make local decisions on limiting purchases to ensure sufficient stock levels

March 26, 2020: Army assumes HPCON C across all installations; Installations limit all access to essential personnel only and limit the numbers of access points

April 2, 2020: The Army and AMC implements DOD guidance on the use of cloth face coverings on military installations and DOD facilities

May 28, 2020: AMC assigned as responsible party for establishing/maintaining adequate warfighting PPE stocks

March 4, 2021: Redstone Arsenal assumes HPCON B; Installation allows larger percentage of the workforce processing through the gates as tenant commanders determine each organizations’ workforce requirements

May 13, 2021: CDC updates guidance on mask wear for fully vaccinated individuals

May 17, 2021: In support of updated CDC guidelines, DOD lifts mask-wear requirements on installations and in DOD facilities for fully vaccinated personnel who are at least two weeks beyond their final dose