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Duke Field transitions to HPCON Charlie

Duke Field declares Health Protection Condition Charlie. Only essential personnel are authorized on base. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The 96th Test Wing commander directed all Eglin Air Force Base properties, to include Duke Field, to implement Health Protection Condition Charlie effective Aug. 16.

The new measures are intended to protect the work force due to the increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Northwest Florida.

“The health and safety of our members and their families is one of our top priorities as we transition to HPCON Charlie,” said Col. Michael Lowe, 919th SOW vice commander. “The day to day mission continues, but we are taking additional precautions in an effort to mitigate the impact of the virus in the workplace.”

Duke Field has already implemented many of the extra health protection measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. HPCON Charlie restricts some activities on base to mission essential only, limits gathering sizes and puts more emphasis on public health measures.

“It’s important each of us do our part and be vigilant in fighting the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said Lowe. “Be mindful that your actions have the potential to affect others while also impacting our global mission. We still need to be ready.”

During mission-essential operations, teleworking may return with commanders’ discretion based on the needs of the mission. Only those employees designated by the appropriate authority requiring their physical presence on base may access the installation for official duties.

Duke Field employees are still required to follow the prevention measures already in place:
• Wear of face masks in the workcenter
• Consistent handwashing (at a minimum when arriving and leaving work)
• Routine sanitizing work place surfaces (door knobs, railings, desks, etc.)
• Avoidance of face touching
• No handshakes or hugging
• Social distancing (minimum of six feet between individuals)

With the implementation of HPCON Charlie, Eglin has restricted gatherings to no more than 50 individuals or the physical distancing capacity of the indoor facility, whichever is lower.

Changes to HPCON postures at Duke Field are influenced by the increased infection rates of COVID-19 virus on and off base. HPCON Charlie indicates there is a sustained disease transmission in the community.

“We have seen a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases in the local community in the past few weeks,” said Capt. Katharine Saunders, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron public health emergency officer. “In fact, the panhandle area has seen about 12 times more COVID cases since this time a month ago.”

Members with close-contact to an infected individual should go (or stay) home and report potential exposure to the 919th SOW Public Health Emergency Officer. Unvaccinated members must quarantine for 14 days after exposure. Vaccinated members may return to work if they are not experiencing symptoms. However, they must monitor their condition for symptoms related to the virus and continue to wear face coverings.

Public Health officials emphasized the importance of vaccinations in staying healthy in the current pandemic.

“I encourage Airmen to get vaccinated,” said Saunders. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and our best line of defense against this virus. The vaccines so far have been very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and death.”

Duke Field implemented and successfully transitioned from HPCON Charlie to a less restrictive posture several months ago demonstrating its ability to stay safe while continuing to support the mission.

“We know how to prevent the spread of COVID,” said Saunders. “If we all work together and support each other, we can get through this as we have for the past 18 months. Every small step you take protects you, your fellow Airmen, family members, and the community.”

Members of the Wing who test positive for COVID-19 must immediately contact the 919th SOW Public Health Emergency Officer at (850) 333-5715.