HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Acting in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and deputy secretary of Defense guidance, Hanscom AFB Installation Commander Col. Katrina Stephens has announced several actions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 and specifically the more-transmissible Delta variant.
The first change everyone needs to be aware of regards mask-use policy. Effective just after midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 3, anyone entering a facility other than their own residence is required to wear a mask, unless alone in fully walled off office with doors closed. Other limited exclusions have been spelled out in the Crisis Action Team directive that was released Aug 2.
The CDC now recommends that in counties categorized as either “Substantial” or “High” transmission zones people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Massachusetts’s Middlesex County, in which Hanscom resides, now falls in the “Substantial Transmission” category, according to CDC statistical mapping. There is no requirement for masking while outdoors on the installation.
“It’s important to implement this measure now, as rising rates of infection renew concerns about COVID-19 transmission and the health threats associated with it,” Stephens said.
The installation is also reinstituting a Public Health Emergency, a move that officials say offers specific authorities and flexibility in terms of implementing and enforcing response actions.
“Once again, we are taking this measure to ensure we are fully equipped to pursue any action necessary to protect public health,” Stephens said. “The declaration should not be seen as indicative of a severe or immediate threat, but simply as a responsible prevention and mitigation measure.”
The installation commander has also reinstituted Health Protection Condition Bravo, up from Alpha, which calls for considering and possibly taking certain additional protection measures. Possible control measures under HPCON Bravo include limiting the size of gatherings. However, Bravo does not, in most cases, prescribe specific limits.
In concert with these actions, the installation commander is also recommending that units continue using telework as much as possible to meet mission requirements while limiting the number of people sharing on-site workspaces.
“There is no cause for panic,” Stephens said. “I want to assure everyone in and around the Hanscom community that these actions are largely precautionary. Our intent is to meet the policy requirement set forth by DOD and ensure we avoid the dangers associated with COVID-19 transmission.”
Base officials also remind everyone that the Moderna vaccine is still available and being administered at the clinic. First and second vaccine doses are available on a walk-in basis at the Hanscom Clinic on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Vaccines remain our best means to protect ourselves and our communities from the virus, but true protection comes from having both doses,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Gough, 66th Medical Squadron public health emergency officer. “There is no better time than now to get vaccinated.”