Although many services are reopening, Army officials warn COVID-19 remains a very real danger and urge Soldiers, Family members and civilians to remain vigilant about protecting themselves and others from the virus.
There has been a recent increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 at BACH and an uptick in the number of calls to the COVID-19 triage line, said Col. G. Troy Prairie, chief of primary care at BACH, who is leading the COVID-19 response at Fort Campbell.
“Since restrictions have been relaxed, we have started to see a slow rise in activity, both in the number of calls we’re taking and in the number of positive patients we are seeing,” Prairie said. “It’s not a huge bump, but we are seeing it, so we are asking people to be smart.”
He urges Fort Campbell community members to continue wearing masks when within 6 feet of most people, washing hands and using hand sanitizer often – especially after touching surfaces in public – limiting exposure to large groups and not breaking restrictions that could potentially lead to spreading COVID-19.
Prairie said he has noticed some people are relaxing more than they should.
“We have noticed when we get positives here at Fort Campbell, we’re seeing them in clusters,” Prairie said.
“What I mean by that is, somebody is positive and [he or she was] around a group of other folks and they didn’t follow what we call the rules of engagement, if you will, with COVID-19,” Prairie said.
Hospital readying for possible ‘surge’
It is best to assume anyone you encounter is positive and take appropriate precautions, Prairie said.
He said the hospital is preparing for an increase in COVID-19 cases as winter approaches, while also preparing to give flu vaccinations and be ready to treat patients for other seasonal illnesses.
“I think COVID-19 will not only be around, I think COVID-19 will surge on us in the winter unless we’re really smart with our precautions, even now,” Prairie said. “I think winter is going to be tough because from a medical standpoint, flu is going to come back, strep throat is going to come back and there’s going to be a lot of illness and we’re going to have to figure out what’s COVID-19, what’s flu, what’s strep or the common cold.”
He urges Soldiers, Families and civilians to continue doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus to protect the force, advice shared by Col. Jeremy D. Bell, Fort Campbell garrison commander.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with challenges like we’ve never seen before,” Bell said in a video posted on the U.S. Army Fort Campbell Facebook Page. “At Fort Campbell, the leadership and hundreds of support staff from around the installation have fought the virus valiantly from the moment we first learned of it. In fact, all of you have played a vital role in protecting Fort Campbell from this virus. The process has not been easy and has required more sacrifices than we normally make.”
Remaining vigilant in preventing the spread of COVID-19 is vital as services reopen and training begins.
“We can’t let our guard down,” Bell said. “First and foremost, I ask that everyone remain disciplined.”
The impact to others when someone at Fort Campbell tested positive for COVID-19 had been “pretty minimal,” but that recently changed, he said.
“Single individuals are making decisions that can potentially infect large numbers of people and critical functions and infrastructure on the installation,” Bell said. “I ask that if you are sick, please stay home. Don’t run the risk of infecting others.”
‘All it takes is one’
Bell said people are beginning to congregate in larger numbers and must follow COVID-19 safety protocols like wearing face masks when social distancing is not possible.
“All it takes is one individual who is one COVID-19 positive to start a chain reaction among his or her Family, friends and coworkers,” he said.
Not everyone is practicing social distancing, good hygiene and discipline necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and Bell urges everyone to make smart decisions.
“Make good decisions when it comes to the safety of yourself, your Family, your friends, your unit, your Soldiers, your coworkers or anyone you come in contact with,” he said. “The common denominator in combatting this virus effectively lies in responsible individual decision-making and leader engagement.”
Bell said now is a crucial time to continue following guidelines.
“If done well, we are on the path to a strong recovery,” he said. “If done poorly, we could backslide.”
People are getting out more for their own well-being, Prairie said, to visit loved ones, work or participate in summer activities.
“There are lots and lots of reasons people are out and about and doing a whole lot more, not to mention the restrictions have been lifted,” he said. “We acknowledge that and we in the medical field certainly have no issue with that.”
Restrictions across the nation gave hospitals like BACH time to get processes in place, get enough ventilators, train staff and prepare to deal with COVID-19, Prairie said.
“Now, we know it’s time to go back and we’re poised a lot better to handle surges in COVID-19,” he said. “That’s not to say we want a big COVID-19 surge because we don’t, but we know people need to get back, we know the economy needs to grow.”
Individuals can get out more but Prairie urges to be smart about it.
“It starts by social distancing and we know people talk about that all the time but what we’re really talking about is 6 feet and if you’re able to maintain that 6 feet of separation from the vast majority of folks when you’re out in public, when you’re going different places, then you are very safe,” he said.
It is important to minimize the amount of contact with most people and avoiding close activities such as handshaking, hugs and talking very close when face-to-face, Prairie said.
“Tapping elbows or greetings from a distance is what we need to do,” he said.
Wearing a face mask while driving is not necessary, Prairie said. “The main reason you wear a mask is to protect other people in case you might have COVID-19. It’s also because, as you’re talking you don’t realize it but small particles come out of your mouth.”
To protect the force it is important to remain vigilant, he said. COVID-19 safety protocols including the wearing of face masks will likely be necessary for months to come.
“COVID-19 does not stop until we either have a vaccine or herd immunity – that’s where a vast majority of the population has had the illness and its built up antibodies or resistance to it and when 70, 80 or 90% of the population has had the illness,” Prairie said. “Then the illness will die out because it can’t jump from person to person because everybody already had it.”
Prairie said he knows people want to get out, but they should pick safe activities that do not put people in close contact with one another.
“What we want to avoid are big groups gatherings,” he said. “You can gather with friends, just try to maintain your spacing, try to be smart about what you share and don’t share in terms of items that you touch, and keep in mind that whoever you bring into your close, little circle, if somebody happens to be positive, then it’s probably going to spread to other people involved.”
The COVID-19 triage line can be reached at 270-798-4677.