On Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern for the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. On Jan. 31, 2020, the secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in the United States and announced new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The current epidemic, which originated in mainland China, has demonstrated the capacity of COVID-19 to spread globally. While supporting other government agencies’ response to the COVID-19 threat, the Department of the Air Force is responding appropriately to protect the health of the force and maintain operational readiness.
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A: Air Force medical facilities are protecting the force in accordance with Office of the Secretary of Defense Force Health Protection Guidance.
- Air Force medical facilities are mitigating the spread of the virus by ensuring accountability of all service members who have returned from mainland China and placing those service members under a 14-day restriction of movement.
- The Air Force is preparing by publishing screening and event-management guidance, training staff in CDC processes and ensuring medical personnel rehearse event-management processes.
- Air Force medical staff help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 by using personal protective equipment, as well as developing health-surveillance protocols, PPE requirements and tracing processes in coordination with state and local public health organizations.
- Air Force medical facilities will respond to the COVID-19 threat by identification, monitoring and management of possible cases and positive tests for the virus, protecting staff and beneficiaries within hospitals and the local community.
- Air Force medical facilities will educate and reassure beneficiaries by providing information directly and in concert with installation leadership and state and local public health organizations.
A. Personnel who are at elevated risk of getting COVID-19 due to possible contact with an individual confirmed to have COVID-19, and/or individuals with symptoms and possible travel history to an area of elevated risk, are being screened for the disease.
A: The safety and health of our Airmen and Space professionals is paramount to mission readiness. In the event that an Air Force member or dependent tests positive for COVID-19, each medical facility has plans in place for treatment, and will take appropriate measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. The patient will be isolated appropriately in a private room with a door and its own bathroom, if available. The appropriate personal protective equipment will be available to the patient and the staff consistent with CDC guidelines. Actions to protect patients and staff include education and future contact tracing if required. Air Force officials at all levels are working closely with the local/regional health departments and the CDC to validate our preparedness for public health emergencies.
A: Senior leaders in each region evaluate the potential safety for travel and military operations by Airmen and Space professionals. As a matter of precaution, members returning from overseas duties from affected regions are being monitored before they leave the region, during their travel back, and upon arrival at their destination. Airmen and Space professionals deployed to affected regions are complying with commanders’ directives regarding travel and military duties associated with current operations.
A: The Air Force has not postponed, redirected or canceled any exercises at this time. Department of Air Force units or individual members participating in regional command joint exercises may have unique impacts. However, we are continually assessing the current environment and are working with our host nations in the regions to ensure the health and safety of our members as operations continue.
A: The safety and security of all of our recruits is of the utmost importance to us and we are taking steps to ensure their safety and well-being. All members entering basic military training are required to process military entrance processing stations on the day of or the day before departing for basic military training. Members at MEPS have virus protocol procedures to observe and take temperatures of all individuals entering MEPS facilities. Air Force recruiters also complete a medical prescreen on all applicants that covers all medical concerns, to include COVID-19. We continue to encourage all members and their families to follow CDC guidance for COVID-19.
A: Commanders of individually affected geographic combatant commands are issuing specific guidance to their forces, to educate and safeguard military and civilian personnel, family members and bases communities in preventing wide-spread outbreak. The CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Alert for Italy and South Korea, recommending travelers avoid all non-essential travel. The closing of child development centers in those areas are in-line with local health official recommendations.
A: All Air Force personnel are encouraged to follow the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of contracting the new coronavirus virus is low, but CDC officials do recommend getting an influenza vaccine and taking everyday preventive actions to help preclude the spread of germs. We encourage all Air Force personnel and their families to continue to practice proper hygiene as the best way to prevent the spread of viruses. This includes washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with those who are sick. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces should also be done.
A: According to the CDC, anyone contracting a respiratory illness shouldn’t assume it is novel coronavirus; it is far more likely to be a more common malady, such as seasonal influenza or the common cold. However, patients who traveled to China, or another area where COVID-19 has been identified as having community transmission, in the past 14 days and currently have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should immediately seek medical care and notify their medical provider of their travel history. If possible, call the medical facility before arrival so the staff can take appropriate precautions. Military medical facilities have provided guidance on how to address such circumstances. People who think they may have been exposed to the virus should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
A. Much like the guidance that CDC provides to the public, the Department of Defense provides similar guidance to military commanders. The primary difference is that the DoD guidance is designed to ensure the Department of Defense can continue to perform its mission. Installation commanders use the HPCON framework to select an appropriate response to a public health emergency or incident of public health concern. The framework clarifies uncertainty associated with these situations and provides options based on the scope and severity of the situation.
A: USNORTHCOM provides guidelines to the Military Departments and other DoD Agencies in the Continental United States. The Military Departments provide additional guidance to their installations. The local commanders make appropriate FHP decisions regarding their installations.
A: Yes. The following link has important information for all Reserve Citizen Airmen, including frequently-asked questions and answers, concerning COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S Air Force
U.S. Department of Defense
DOD Force Health Protection Guidance
The White House