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Eielson Elevates COVID Alert Level, Orders Facemasks, Other Measures

Eielson AFB
Eielson's elevation of its Health Protection Condition alert level requires personnel to wear facemasks if they can't maintain at least 6 feet of social distance

Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely Maintain Lower Alert Level

Eielson Air Force Base has increased its precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, in response to the rising rate of coronavirus infection in the Interior.

Col. David Berkland heads up Eielson’s main fighter wing, and he elevated the base’s COVID-19 precaution level by a notch on Monday.

JBER Public Affairs Office
Directives issued Friday by Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson’s commander and Monday by Eielson Air Force Base’s commander require personnel like Air Force Airman 1st Class Leandra Ventura-Perez, with JBER’s 3rd Operations Support Squadron, to redouble efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus by wearing facemasks indoors and other measures.

“The 354th Fighter Wing Commander has directed a health-protection condition bravo, due to the increased community COVID-19 transmission rate,” Eielson spokesperson Staff Sgt. Parker DuBois said Monday. She said base officials were working on the details of additional precautions that personnel will be required to take now that the health protection condition has been elevated from HPCON alpha to HPCON bravo.

“We will have additional guidance and an updated command directive for Eielson Air Force Base personnel released shortly,” she said.

Eielson increased its precautions after Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson’s commander declared a public health emergency on Friday due to a surge in COVID cases there and elevated J-BER’s health protection condition to bravo.

Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar commands JBER and its 673rd Air Base Wing. And she said in statement released Friday that the emergency declaration reflects the “continued reality” of sustained, community transmission of COVID-19.

David Bedard/Army National Guard
A directive issued last month by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requires military personnel to get COVID-19 vaccinations, like this one being administered earlier this year by Alaska Army National Guard combat medic Spec. Alexander Martin-Frank into the arm of Charles Hooper, a warrant officer candidate at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.

Alaska Public Media reports that JBER officials are urging servicemembers to avoid places that don’t require masking, and to maintain social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. According to the statement, if the situation at JBER worsens, commanders will take additional measures to protect military personnel, possibly including restricting their access to off-base establishments.

Commanders at the two Army installations in the Interior have not elevated their health protection condition levels – at least, not yet.

“We are not increasing the health protection condition at this time, though the garrison leadership is monitoring the situation and may adjust, if necessary,” Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker said Monday.

Baker said post officials will require personnel to continue using the precautions that the post had established months ago.

“We are maintaining the mask requirement for all indoor spaces,” she said, “and then for outdoor spaces, if you cannot maintain 6 feet of separation, you do have to wear a mask.”

A Fort Greely spokesperson said Monday that that post also hasn’t elevated its health protection condition level.

Vaccinations against the virus are required for military members, under an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month. But different branches have different deadlines. For the Air Force, the deadline is Nov. 2, and for the Army, it’s Dec. 15.

According to a data analysis by the New York Times, Alaska’s 101 coronavirus cases per 100,000 resident ranked third highest in the country over the past week.

Editor's note: Alaska Public Media's Casey Grove contributed to this report.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.