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Vance AFB implements mask mandate, movement restrictions

Vance Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force/Released)

Vance Air Force Base issued an internal memorandum Friday ordering all base military personnel to wear face coverings, whether on base or in town, and restricting leave and travel, due to heightened concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memo, signed by Col. Timothy Danielson, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance, applies to all military personnel assigned to Vance, even when they are off-base and on leave, and to government service civilian employees while on base.

Danielson’s order requires military personnel to maintain physical distance “to the maximum extent possible” and to wear face masks or coverings while in off-base establishments, when safety is a concern, except when eating or drinking or when personnel are “by yourself or with people who live with you.”

The order also limits social gathering for military personnel — on or off base — to no more than 10 people, and restricts unit functions and military ceremonies to no more than 50 people, with physical distancing and masks. The gathering limitations and face mask requirements also are applicable to civilians while on base.

Squadron commander approval is required for all travel and leave, according to Danielson’s order, which notes: “Given the virus’ endemic nature we should assume it is everywhere we travel.”

Terri Schaefer, Vance chief of public affairs, said the new restrictions are “common sense” measures, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

“Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the nation, Vance AFB has implemented a 100% mask wear policy in all base facilities and within the local area,” Schaefer said. “Areas deemed high-risk or high-traffic have instituted designated entry points, which include a temperature check. Additionally, all personnel are required to clear leaving the local area through their squadron commander, who utilizes a risk assessment process to determine approval or disapproval. Squadron commanders have the authority to require members to restrict movement upon their return should leadership deem the risk too high to other personnel or the community at large.”

Danielson, in his memorandum, said countering the pandemic requires people to be proactive about protecting those around them.

“Personal responsibility is key to protecting the people and mission at Vance AFB,” Danielson wrote in the order. “I expect military personnel to use good judgment and consult with their chain of command when confronted with a situation not addressed by this memorandum.”

Vance Air Force Base has a population of about 1,500 active-duty airmen, 650 dependents and 400 government civilians, in addition to the contract workers who access the base daily.

Schaefer said Air Force operational security guidelines preclude disclosing how many airmen at Vance have tested positive for the virus, or how many are restricted from leaving base or their quarters.

“Base leadership is in constant contact with downtown elected officials and civic leaders,” Schaefer said, “and our public health personnel speak to the Garfield County Health Department regularly.”

Danielson’s order will remain in effect as long as Vance is in HPCON Bravo or higher.

Health Protection Condition (HPCON) ratings are similar to Force Protection Conditions, which dictate the security posture on military installations, and range from Alpha to Delta.

Vance has been in HPCON Bravo since March, except for a period beginning in late March when the threat level was increased to Charlie, before lapsing back down to Bravo.

Frequently asked questions, HPCON status, and links to COVID-related healthcare organizations can be found on the Vance Air Force Base website at www.vance.af.mil.

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