Four days after publishing an updated general order addressing the installation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Fort Hood leaders held a Facebook live town hall event Tuesday morning from a conference room in III Corps Headquarters to discuss those updates and the road ahead.
Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general, III Corps, was joined by Col. Jason Wesbrock, Fort Hood garrison commander, for the hour-long Facebook session. The general opened his remarks telling the community that he’s pleased with the progress made by the Fort Hood community in facing down the pandemic.
“Since the last time we talked, we’ve had some big wins in this fight,” Efflandt said. “Overall, Central Texas and Fort Hood, in particular, never had the significant spike in the disease that everyone was predicting and all the models showed.”
“The demand we expected on our medical services never surpassed our capacity,” the general noted. “And truth be told, the overall demand on our medical facilities was very small. In addition, the supply system is starting to come online and we’re getting the protective equipment we need out to our people.”
The general said success thus far has hinged on employing the Center for Disease Control’s guidance, lessons learned from across the Army and common sense practices to mitigate potential spreading of the virus.
Efflandt highlighted the major changes addressed in the updated general order issued Friday, which he said is “similar to the original Shelter in Place order, but is less restrictive. Changes include:
- A new curfew, 11 p.m. - 5 a.m.
- Limited visitation in homes and barracks (up to 10 people).
- Group physical training, with some limitations.
What has not changed, yet, is the 40-mile restriction to travel off the installation. It was one of the first things asked about by the community. Efflandt said, while he hopes the restriction can be lifted sooner than later, for now, it’s a safety measure that is working.
“We think those two things, the curfew and the 40-mile travel restriction, are what is keeping us safe and has allowed the Fort Hood military community to have a much lower infection rate,” Efflandt said. “As soon as conditions change, and the risk goes down in the local environment, we’ll look and reassess and lift those when the time comes.”
Likewise, post gyms have not opened fully, even though they have off-post. Multiple community members asked about a timeline for on-post gyms to re-open.
“Alexandria, and about ten people just like her, asked a question that is near and dear to my heart: when will the gyms be open,” Efflandt said. “Not soon enough. However, what we’ve learned … is that gyms are high-risk environments. So, the process of reinstating use of the gyms is very deliberate. Gyms (on-post) are currently open now for physical therapy and rehabilitation. That’s the first step.”
“We’re going to monitor that,” the general said. “Additionally, we’re going to look at what are the best practices that come out of those gyms that we can import them into Fort Hood. Our volume of use at the gyms at Fort Hood exceeds all the gyms off-post. We have to be pretty careful about that.”
This week, Fort Hood Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation began its phased approach to re-opening child development centers on the installation. The garrison commander assured the community that the garrison continues to evaluate which services should be re-opened, or expanded if already open, to support the ramp-up of incremental training by Soldiers at Fort Hood.
“We’re looking to open the remainder of our child development centers, school-age service centers and youth centers in the coming weeks,” Wesbrock said, “as we are able to sanitize the facilities, ensure we have the right staff in place, the staff are trained, … and we can provide a safe environment for the children.”
During his closing remarks, Efflandt encouraged the Fort Hood community to stay the course to kill the virus.
“We’ve been successful so far in minimizing the threat of an outbreak and that’s because everyone has done their part. We are not clear of this yet, so please don’t stop those protective measures you’ve now developed as a habit,” he said. “Training is critical. We have plans to do it safely, and if we have an outbreak, we have plans to deal with that, too. Every decision we make, every measure we take, is a calculated decision designed to protect the force, our families and our communities.”
In all, the pair of Fort Hood senior leaders answered 48 questions during the hour-long event.
“Based on the type of questions and responses provided online, it’s evident that we, as a community, are coming to terms with what it means to live with COVID-19,” Efflandt said following the live-streaming on Facebook. “People are understanding we need to get on with Army business, they are understanding it’s a COVID environment and now we’re getting down to the technical mechanics of being part of the solution.”
There is one thing the general wants the Fort Hood community to remember:
“The disease is not going away in the near-term, and the measures we’re employing will not go away in the near-term,” he stressed. “We’re going to continually evolve them.”