Senior leadership from Fort Campbell, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Blanchfield Army Community Hospital took part in a March 24 Facebook Live town hall to provide an update on COVID-19, and its impacts on mission readiness and the safety of the community.
Major General Brian E. Winski, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, and Col. Jeremy D. Bell, Fort Campbell garrison commander, hosted the town hall and answered questions and concerns from Fort Campbell community members in real time.
“We are better as a community when we get together, share information and help solve each other’s problems at the lowest level,” Bell said.
Winski and Bell were joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan D. Barker, 101st Abn. Div. senior enlisted adviser; Stacye Downing, director of Fort Campbell DFMWR; and Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, BACH commander. The three guests stepped in during the town hall to answer questions and discuss updated procedures in their respective areas of expertise.
Winski said he and Barker have been in continual communication with the leadership of the cities of Clarksville, Hopkinsville, Oak Grove, Montgomery and Christian counties, and local emergency services personnel.
As of March 24, “in Montgomery County, which includes Clarksville, there have been six confirmed cases,” Winski said. “In Christian County, which includes Hopkinsville, there have been two confirmed cases. On Fort Campbell there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 positive individuals. We have had quite a few tests that were administered and there are over 200 tests still pending results.”
Winski said they are looking at neighboring communities’ response procedures to confirmed cases of COVID-19 to plan for response if a confirmed case should occur on Fort Campbell.
“We do have 179 Soldiers in quarantine,” Winski said. “The majority of those Soldiers in quarantine have returned from missions overseas. The requirement for anyone returning from outside the Continental United States is to go into 14-day quarantine. We also include in the number anyone who may have come into contact with a known COVID-19 carrier.”
Winski said every decision made regarding response and prevention of COVID-19 has had input from medical professionals.
“We’ve come to the decision to move to mission-essential manning starting March 25,” Winski said. “It does have a resonating impact across multiple services on Fort Campbell.”
Effective on March 25, all physical fitness centers on Fort Campbell are closed. Eagle Child Development Center and Bastogne School-Age Center will remain open to service mission-essential Soldiers and their Families, all other CDCs and SACs are closed.
Winski also announced there will be revised hours for all entry gates, because of the decreased traffic on and off post.
“DPW and Campbell Crossing will only address high priority health and safety work orders both in unit areas, buildings, and residences on post,” Winski said.
Mission readiness, preparation for deployment
Winski announced military medical units are activating in support of civilian medical facilities throughout the country, including Fort Campbell’s 531st Hospital Company is deploying to New York City. Winski said elements of 3rd Brigade may be activated as well to support the mission on the Southwest border.
“The installation will support a lot of activities to get them packed up and ready to move over the course of the next several days,” he said. “While we are at mission-essential manning, there will be a lot of activity and support to get them out the door.”
Much of the training that is not mission essential will be postponed.
Health care procedures
Birchfield praised the 531st’s preparation for responding in support of COVID-19 thanks to the field exercise training they conducted last fall.
“It gave us a really good look at ourselves and how to treat patients in the absence of health care providers,” Birchfield said.
BACH has begun to scale back surgeries and treatments that are not urgent, he said.
The pharmacies have moved to drop-off and pick-up only, no longer allowing patients to wait inside the pharmacy for prescriptions, he said. All BACH primary care clinics are moving this week to Byrd Health Clinic, and all Soldiers seen at Byrd Clinic will now go to LaPointe Health Clinic or Troop Medical Clinic 5. Soldiers will be directed where to go.
“This will take all of the patients coming in for wellness visits or non COVID-related visits and sends them to outlying clinics,” Birchfield said. “It keeps people who are not affected by COVID in outlying clinics and we can now shut our C Entrance.”
The A Entrance of BACH will be accessible for vulnerable populations, such as mothers-to-be and babies, keeping them separate from potential risk. All patients entering the hospital will be screened upon arrival. Visitation policies will be altered, and social visits are discouraged.
To see updates on specific health services, visit: https://blanchfield.amedd.army.mil.
Refunds or credits will be available to Families affected by the CDC and SAC closings.
“We are prepared to execute the mission of the Eagle CDC and the Bastogne SAC,” Downing said. “The care is the same, and the hours will be the same. For all of the parents [of children who attend closed centers who were] already billed for care this month, they can all receive a credit or a refund, and we will accommodate them based on whichever option they choose.”
Downing said the various MWR facilities and offices have been practicing disinfecting areas more often and social distancing as much as possible.
“Any children signed up for the SKIES and Youth Sports programs can choose to be credited or refunded,” Downing said. “No parent should be suffering any financial inequity as a result of COVID-19, because it is absolutely no parent’s responsibility. We are going to do the right thing and make sure everyone is appropriately reimbursed.”
Children also will not lose their slots at the child care facilities when they are re-opened. Downing warned the centers may not open in concurrence with the schools.
The health and safety of Fort Campbell’s Soldiers and community remains the utmost priority to leadership.
“We are not closing the installation,” Bell said. “Right now, gates 4, 7, 10, and Saber will remain open 24/7. Gates that aren’t open 24/7, gates 1, 3, 6 and the Mabry Gate will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Our emergency services will take over a lot at the gates over the next week and we may modify and shrink even more gates down.”
Winski said some upcoming deployments this month may be delayed, however the deployments set further within the year are expected to remain on schedule.
The travel restriction of 50 miles for Soldiers is still in place until May 11. Department of Defense civilian employees should consult their supervisor.
There is currently no plan to enforce curfews on Fort Campbell, Winski said, as he believes the Fort Campbell community will be able to act safely and responsibly under the guidelines and expectations already set by leadership.
“One single person on Fort Campbell cannot prevent the spread of this,” Barker said. “One person, one act of indiscipline, can absolutely cause an infection to spread across the installation at a very rapid rate through carelessness. I ask the Soldiers, our civilians, our Family members, and visitors to take necessary precautions and practice social distancing. We need everyone’s help preventing this.”
To stay current on Fort Campbell COVID-19 updates, visit: https://home.army.mil/campbell/index.php/covid-19.