Fort Lee rolls back COVID-19 protocols

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In this image provided by the U.S. Army, recent Army basic combat training graduates have their temperatures taken as they arrive at Fort Lee, Va, on March 31, 2020, after being transported using sterilized buses from Fort Jackson, S.C. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on military recruiting, shuttering enlistment stations around the country and forcing thousands of recruiters to woo potential soldiers online. Recruiters have had to abandon their normal visits to high schools and malls, and instead rely almost exclusively on social media to reach young people. (U.S. Army via AP)

FORT LEE, Va. (WRIC) — U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee is rolling back some of the health protocols that were instituted during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a release, the senior commander at the Sustainment Center of Excellence authorized a change in the post’s operational status to Health Protection Condition (HPCON) – Alpha, effective Monday.

This means a greater semblance of the normal post functions that were in place prior to the onset of the pandemic, just over a year ago. According to a release, family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities can operate at full capacity, Child Development Centers can open additional slots for children and guests will be allowed to attend outdoor advanced individual training (AIT) graduation ceremonies.

Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) Director of Training, G-3/5/7, Col. Joseph Colacicco said that there has been no significant rise in COVID-19 rates in the region surrounding Fort Lee, even as social distancing and venue capacity restrictions were lifted across the commonwealth at the end of May.

“While family attendance at outdoor ceremonies is permitted, they will not be allowed to interact with graduates at the ceremony because the potential for spreading the virus still exists and the command wants to maintain a sterile bubble among the student population,” said Major Taron Dukes, CASCOM’s Chief of Operations.

According to a release, family visits with students still enrolled in AIT courses at Fort Lee remains prohibited because of the greater risk among that population because they live, dine and train in closer quarters than advanced course students.

Any individual who is not fully vaccinated must wear a mask at all times while off post.

This applies to those at the garrison, as well, if they are in a fitness facility and moving between equipment or not actively exercising. Moving forward, Fort Lee fitness facilities will be able to operate at full capacity.

In general, those not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks in any location where they are likely to come in close contact with other individuals. All Team Lee members are expected to comply with facility requirements for masks, as some agencies are requiring them regardless of vaccination status.

“Let’s put this into perspective,” Colacicco said. “The move to HPCON-Alpha does not mean the pandemic is over. We are still under a national emergency and can’t let our guard down.”

According to a release, locker rooms will reopen. But the saunas will remain closed because they are being replaced. Lee Club, Ten Strike Bowling and Entertainment Center, Cardinal Golf Course, Sustainers’ Pub and the Hideaway will be able to resume their pre-pandemic full occupancies. Bar seating, in those establishments that have it, also will be reopening, according to Tom Green with the Business and Community Recreation Division under the Family and MWR directorate.

For Child and Youth Services, the caregiver-to-child ratio will increase to 15:1. According to a release, that, coupled with an anticipated onboarding of new hires, will create about 60 more slots for child care. Green said that there are still multiple vacancies the directorate is trying to fill, and that is hindering CYS from reaching full capacity.

COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated individuals reporting to Fort Lee is required, according to a release, and it is the incoming service member’s responsibility to review that information and comply with the requirements.

Colacicco said that leaders plan to reassess these procedures in three or four weeks, as the first groups of predominately vaccinated soldiers from basic training are due to report in July.

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