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Fort Bragg leaders say COVID-19 cases in ‘single digits’

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

About 75% of all Fort Bragg-associated cases of the coronavirus have recovered, officials said at a virtual town hall meeting Thursday.

Fort Bragg has not released its total cases after Department of Defense guidelines March 31 instructing individuals not to release case counts for operational security reasons.

As of Monday, Kurilla said Fort Bragg’s total related cases for service members, Department of Army civilians, dependents, contractors and retirees combined is “in the single digits.”

Fort Bragg continues to release numbers to local health departments.

Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, said “thoughts and prayers” are with the friends and family members of the Fort Bragg Department of Army and civilian contractor who died from the virus last week.

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Kurilla said he thinks state orders, Fort Bragg’s essential manning status, increased testing, contact tracing of individuals who have come in contact with someone who’s tested positive and social distancing are helping slow the spread of the virus.

He cited statistics and said the state has about 74 cases of the virus per 100,000 residents, which he said is less than Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina per capita.

“It means that what you’re doing is working,” Kurilla said.

Kurilla said testing capabilities will continue to increase, and results are coming back within about 24 hours.

“Our top priorities remain protecting the Fort Bragg community and maintaining readiness,” Kurilla said.

Kurilla said the installation’s mission essential guidance will continue through May 4.

After that date, he said commanders will be able to reassess who is mission essential personnel based on mission requirements, with goals to gradually increase individual training and more collective and larger training by June.

Fielding online questions, officials said Department of Defense Education Activity officials are indicating that the remainder of the school year will continue with virtual learning.

Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Albertson, with the 18th Airborne Corps, said despite barber shops being closed, guidance is for soldiers to “maintain a professional appearance.”

Kurilla said once leaders determine regular activities can gradually resume, barber shops and gyms will be evaluated to reopen “in a safe manner.”

Visitor restrictions continue, as Kurilla said leaders monitor surrounding communities and the spread and containment of the virus.

Col. John Melton, commander of Womack Army Medical Center, said there are currently not therapies or vaccines for the virus, and the Food and Drug Administration estimates March 2021 could be the soonest a vaccine would be developed.

Melton said he expects a second wave of the virus after the current wave “flattens” and a third wave will begin when flu season starts back up in later fall.

Melton said that is why continuing to wear masks and maintaining 6 feet of distancing is important, even when regular activities start to resume, because the virus is transmitted through droplets in the air from sneezing, coughing or breathing.

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© 2020 The Fayetteville Observer