JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to challenge people across the globe to include Airmen within the Indo-Pacific, but PACAF remains ready to support the theater’s strategic mission by maintaining a heightened health and safety posture.
The Omicron variant is presenting a higher transmission rate than previous variants. In light of increased COVID-19 cases, PACAF Airmen are implementing additional precautions to maintain unit readiness while limiting exposure; all to minimize the spread of the disease to the maximum extent.
“Two-plus years of pandemic conditions present challenges to sustaining our posture to protect service members, civil servants and families. We must meet this latest increase and variant with the same alacrity of the previous waves,” said Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, PACAF deputy commander. “It is our duty to encourage each other to maintain focus to protect the force and our families—to protect our readiness. We will remain vigilant and restore many of those precautions we previously used to protect our teammates, families and ourselves. We’ve been here before and we know what to do.”
Across the expanse of PACAF, health protocols and safeguards vary from base to base due to local conditions and country-specific requirements in the specific geographic location.
“Our guidance is intended to reflect the current risk environment and to minimize COVID-19 spread to the best of our ability while balancing mission requirements,” said Col. Susan Moran, PACAF command surgeon. “Using the latest scientific information on Omicron and prior lessons learned from the pandemic, we can keep our teams safe and healthy.”
Overall, COVID-19 precautions include but are not limited to: maximizing virtual meetings to the greatest extent; maintaining proper social distancing and mask wear in workplaces; limiting social gatherings; and robust cleaning, focused especially on high-touch items.
“We are executing our mission, participating in operations and exercises, where feasible around the Indo-Pacific and reducing the risk with appropriate risk mitigations to protect the force and our communities,” said Jacobson. “We can all acknowledge the potential risks the pandemic presents and understand we can only succeed with the coordination of our stakeholders working together to maintain proper health protocols.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Department evolved its Health Protection (HPCON) guidance to best posture the force to maintain readiness and continue operations. Commanders are empowered to set their installation’s health protection posture through evaluation of local COVID-19 data and discussions with base medical personnel, local community partners and Host Nation policies where applicable. Commanders are responsible for updating both local guidelines for base personnel and HPCON levels.
“We are constantly communicating with our higher headquarters and our subordinate units to ensure our COVID-19 mitigation procedures are tailored to the current local situation. As COVID-19 risk increases in a local area, the installation commander turns up the dial as needed with additional measures and as the risk decreases, the commander dials the measures back appropriately,” said Moran.
“What I can say for certain is the PACAF mission will continue, even under the added stress of COVID-19,” said Jacobson. “We will fight through the storm, and do our due diligence to work alongside our allies and partners to safeguard the Indo-Pacific while simultaneously safeguarding the health, hygiene and readiness across the region.”