On March 15, the Commanding General for the National Training Center, Maj. Gen. David Lesperance, issued an order announcing the installation was moving from Health Protection Condition Charlie to HPcon Bravo.
The order also stated the installation, “Will continue to comply with HQDA (Headquarters Department of the Army) and FORSCOM preventative measures to blunt the spread of COVID-19 in order to protect the force and our Families.”
Lesperance first made the announcement of the transition of the health protection level status during his live, Community Update on March 10.
“It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since we identified the need to conduct these updates, given the conditions that were present a year ago,” Lesperance said.
Leadership conducted their first Facebook Live update on the community on Mar. 13, 2020 simulcasting it to KNTC 88.5FM radio and addressing questions, concerns and what COVID-19 meant for Fort Irwin families overall.
On March 20, 2020, there were no reported coronavirus cases at Fort Irwin and only five positive cases traced in San Bernardino County. There have now been more than 290,000 cases in the county.
“Well we’ve certainly come a long way since then,” Lesperance said. “Much has happened in the past year. We have seen our first and subsequent cases here.”
Lesperance said that as a result, training was curtailed as a precaution and everyone had to learn to adapt to living and operating in a COVID-19 environment.
“Then what happened? Just as we thought we’d seen the worst of the pandemic, we saw a surge and another surge and here we are a year later and we’re still remaining cautious, perhaps, optimistically so,” he said.
NTC leaders assessed preparedness and implemented safeguards and mitigation measures based on conditions, making adjustments as necessary, ensuring the community remained as safe as possible, also allowing leaders to ensure Army readiness.
“This past year has been interesting to say the least,” Lesperance said. “While we’ve certainly come a long way, we still need to remain cautious.”
He pointed to the training rotations as a reason to stay vigilant due to the risk of unknowingly exposing others to the virus.
“During mass testing that we do in preparation for rotation, asymptomatic soldiers are still being identified,” Lesperance said.
What HPcon Bravo means for NTC
During the general’s live event, Lesperance reiterated the Feb. 25 General Order, which laid out the current restrictions on post, related to travel, gatherings, physical training, etc. The details can be found on the main NTC website at home.army.mil/irwin.
Even before the official transition from HPcon Charlie to HPcon Bravo the NTC had begun expanding services with safety precautions. Under Bravo conditions, those on post must follow the current General Order restrictions, as well as the standard health protection conditions set by the Department of Defense.
Soldiers and employees are asked to contact their Chain of Command or supervisor specific questions and guidance but here is a snapshot of the transition means:
• All personnel must exercise social distancing, masking while conducting any essential activity
• Limited telework required, based on supervisor approval
• MEDDAC/DENTAC: No change/current operations in affect for patients
• MWR Facilities: Most are under normal operations with limited capacity, social distancing, face masks, sanitizing required
• Gyms: Climbing Wall, Family Fitness Room are open; saunas remain closed; 30-minute cleanings
• Library: In-stock book check-out resumes
• CDC/SAC: Phased approached, staff-to-child ratio dependent; MST continues as satellite facility for SAC – 5th grade
• Chapel: No change/current operations in affect
• Commissary: No change/current operations still in affect
• DFAC: 50% of seating open to all Military personnel. To-go only remains for civilians
“This is a good news story for the installation,” Lesperance said.
When it comes the child development centers, Lesperance said, “The CDC will not be able to expand to Bravo conditions until they hire the right number of providers to expand those services.”
COVID-19 Update for San Bernardino County
Lesperance emphasized that although cases and hospitalization rates have started to decline, and some California counties have moved into the least restrictive tiers, the health risk remains quite real.
On March 14, the State of California informed the County of San Bernardino that they could enter the Red Tier (Substantial), meaning all retail, hair salons/barbershops and personal care could open indoors with 50% capacity/modifications.
Museums, zoos, aquariums, churches, theaters, restaurants can open at 25% capacity.
County updates can be found at https://sbcovid19.com/.
“Let me thank you all again for your continued vigilance and resilience over the past year,” Lesperance said. “We know it’s been tough. It’s because of you, though, we’ve been one of the safest installations in FORSCOM and just as important, it’s allowed us to take care of our families and also preserve the ability to have the Army come here and train.”