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Fort Bragg could start drive-thru testing for coronavirus next week

A sign at one of the entrances to Fort Bragg. (Fish Cop./WikiCommons)

Childhood development centers remain open on Fort Bragg and leaders are hoping to start drive-thru testing for the coronavirus next week, officials said Wednesday.

With the installation’s first case of the virus, called COVID-19, and a few cases in the surrounding area, leaders said they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

During a virtual town hall meeting on the post’s Facebook page Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, said public health workers are working to trace the contacts of the person who tested positive for the new virus.

Officials said the person is a Department of Army medical professional assigned to an operational unit at Fort Bragg who is now in isolation at home in Harnett County.

The medical professional and unit were notified of the results Monday night.

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“No one is withholding information, and what we will do, though, is protect that personal information of that individual,” Kurilla said.

Kurilla said public health officials will inform anyone who came in contact with that person about whether they should be screened or quarantined.

Kurilla said leaders will be transparent and keep the Fort Bragg community updated on the case.

“Our top priorities are maintaining readiness of our special operations forces and our immediate-response forces that reside here right at Fort Bragg and protecting our service members, families, civilians and our community here,” he said. “It’s a balance between risks to force, which is spreading the virus, and the risk to the mission of being able to meet those mission requirements should our nation call.”

Officials also announced changes to Army and Air Force Exchange Service hours. Medical and dental patients are being called to ask if they can change appointments or move to a telehealth model. Gyms are restricted to active-duty service members only.

There are plans to start testing for the virus with a drive-thru screening process.

And childhood development centers are still open.

Col. Phillip Sounia, Fort Bragg’s garrison commander, said hours for school-age children have expanded to 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for ages 6 to 12.

Services for teenagers are 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kurilla said keeping the childhood development centers open is being evaluated, as about 80% of people who use them are either single with a child, a dual-military family or a family in which the spouse of the service member works.

“What we’re balancing with here is the ability to still continue with our critical missions that we have for the nation of being able to provide those ready forces so those soldiers can continue to provide that,” Kurilla said.

Sounia said employees at the centers are reviewing and maintaining protocols to keep children safe, including making proper notification and isolating a child if he or she shows symptoms.

Kurilla said parents who don’t want to send their children to the childhood development centers at this time will be refunded and maintain their place on lists for the service.

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© 2020 The Fayetteville Observer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.