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AFMC incorporates civilian personnel into existing COVID-19 surveillance testing

Senior Airman Arienthea Gray and Airman 1st Class Kaylin Rice, 66th Medical Squadron Laboratory technicians, record lab work results at the medical laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Dec. 3. Laboratory technicians are responsible for collecting and testing all routine lab work and COVID tests done on the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Senior Airman Arienthea Gray and Airman 1st Class Kaylin Rice, 66th Medical Squadron Laboratory technicians, record lab work results at the medical laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Dec. 3. Surveillance testing of COVID-19 will expand to include Hanscom civilian employees beginning Feb. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Air Force Materiel Command expanded its COVID-19 surveillance testing in January 2021, extending the voluntary testing to civilian personnel at four AFMC installations, including Hanscom.

This expansion of surveillance testing includes civilian employee populations at Hanscom, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; Eglin AFB, Fla.; and Hill AFB, Utah. Expanded testing at Hanscom is slated to begin Feb. 19.  

Civilians’ participation in this effort is voluntary, but officials from the 66th Medical Squadron encourage anyone able to participate to do so.

“It would benefit our whole community to identify those who may be asymptomatic carriers and are spreading the virus without knowing,” said Capt. Jenifer Mouser, 66 MDS officer in charge of Laboratory and Radiology. “COVID-19 is a public health emergency, so it will take the public’s participation to slow its spread.” 

The testing effort is part of a larger Department of the Air Force sentinel surveillance strategy to randomly test Air and Space Force military and civilian personnel to identify and contain pockets of the coronavirus. The goal is to test people without symptoms for COVID-19 to determine if additional public health actions are needed in work areas. Ultimately, the Air Force wants to ensure Airmen and the Air Force community remain healthy and able to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.

Civilian personnel will be selected for participation at random, based on Air Force guidance of up to 10 percent of medical personnel and locally designated higher risk/key positions, and no less than 1 percent of the remaining installation workforce tested every 14 days.  

Mouser said the initial testing groups will consist of employees who regularly enter the base and work in-office before reaching out to those primarily working remotely.  

“Those who are teleworking are currently a reduced risk to the base, but we ask they continue doing their best to social distance and minimize contact with the community,” she said.

As noted above, participation in this testing effort is voluntary, and a selected civilian employee may decline to take part. Any selected employee with a positive confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days will not be tested.

These four installations will use the oral fluid coronavirus test provided by Curative, Inc., with which the Air Force signed an agreement in 2020 to deploy and scale an oral fluid coronavirus test that received a Food and Drug Administration emergency-use authorization. The test collects saliva with a cotton swab and examines it for the COVID-19 virus.

Four to six individual samples will be grouped together, also called aggregated testing. The aggregated sample will receive an identification number and then be tested for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. If an aggregated sample result is negative, no notifications will be made. If a result is positive, medical personnel will notify the commander(s) of individuals in that positive aggregated sample, so the commanders can advise those individuals to seek further medical evaluation to determine whether or not they have the COVID-19 virus. No aggregated test result will be entered into any medical record.

All employees must continue to adhere to Hanscom policies for facial coverings, hand-washing, physical distancing and work station sanitation.

Questions can be sent directly to usaf.hanscom.66-abg.list.publichealth@mail.mil.

Additional COVID-related information for Hanscom can be found at www.Hanscom.af.mil/Coronavirus