The increase in coronavirus cases has prompted the commanding general of Fort Rucker to issue a fourth General Order requiring the wearing of masks on the installation. The mask requirement falls on the heels of the mandatory mask order handed down by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey which goes into effect July 16 at 5 p.m.
“Over the last three weeks, we have seen a continuous upward trend in the COVID-19 case rate in the counties in Alabama, Florida and Georgia that we are most concerned about,” said Francis. “Fort Rucker has not been immune to this problem and we have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the gates of Fort Rucker as well.”
Francis is the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker Commanding General. He issued a live status update on the USAACE Facebook page on Wednesday, July 15.
Francis announced the General Order 3 that was issued on June 11 was being rescinded and being replaced by General Order 4 effective immediately.
“Our priorities have not changed. The first priority is to protect our people. Our second is to protect the critical training mission here at Fort Rucker. And the third is to protect our local community,” Francis said.
The General Order identifies “prohibited conduct that is damaging to the good order, discipline, health and safety of all personnel within the area of responsibility of Fort Rucker’s Senior Commander. It applies to all individuals who are subject to the military authority of the Senior Commander at Fort Rucker including family members, Department of the Army Civilians and contractors.” Those failing to abide by the order may be denied access to the installation.”
Face coverings are required at all times by all individuals over the age of 2 entering post facilities as well as in all off post, non-residential facilities regardless of whether physical separation of six feet can be maintained from other personnel. The exception is any employee that can maintain six feet of separation from other personnel in a private office, cubicle, work space, conference room or classroom.
“Fort Rucker has not been immune to this problem and we have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the gates of Fort Rucker as well,” Francis said. “In each instance where we have a positive COVID-19 case or a known exposure to someone who is positive with COVID-19, we immediately test the individual, we conduct a trace of anybody that individual may have come in contact with and then we quarantine or isolate as required, as well as clean and sanitize the areas that they may have touched.
“This data is telling us several things. First, the control measures we have in place work. The social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitation procedures are preventing the spread of COVID-19 on Fort Rucker. Second, it is when people do not follow these fundamental rules that COVID-19 spreads. Third, COVID-19 is not being spread on Fort Rucker but is coming in from the outside. Fourth, the large majority, over 80 percent of the COVID-19 cases on Fort Rucker, have been brought on the post from contractors, Department of the Army Civilians and family members,” Francis said.
The travel limit for Fort Rucker personnel continues to be a 100-mile straight line distance from Fort Rucker. Prohibited and off-limits locations remain off-post bars, night clubs, dance clubs, movie theaters, spas, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and seating area of restaurants, both indoors and outdoors regardless of the changes in state and local policies.
“I ask that as a community we all abide by the fundamental protections that allow us to protect our people, our mission and our local community. I’m sure that many of you have noticed that many in the local area are not abiding by social distancing and mask protocols. I need everybody to wear a mask. It is one of the best ways to protect each other and our priorities here at Fort Rucker.
“We have some big decisions coming up and our ability to do this will affect the outcome of those decisions,” Francis said.
“When do we bring the workforce back that’s been teleworking since the beginning of the pandemic? All of that depends on the conditions that we have on post and off post. The Department of Defense Education Agency has announced that it intends to open our schools on the 24th of August. That, again, will depend on us meeting criteria and having the procedures in place to do this safely and all of our performance of these basic functions at Fort Rucker.
“When we modify the restrictions on and off post that we currently have in place, all of these require everyone to do their part,” Francis said.
“I could not be more impressed and proud of the way the Fort Rucker community has handled this pandemic. That has enabled us to protect our people, continue our critical mission of training the future aviators for our nation and protecting our local communities. It will take all of us doing the right thing for us to continue to succeed.”