Our Public Health Emergency Officers are reporting our installations and the State of NC have met several critical benchmarks that indicate it is safe to allow a phased return of services and businesses that were previously closed. These benchmarks include: 1) a downward trajectory of COVID-like cases over past 14 days, 2) a downward trajectory of positive cases as a percentage of total tests over the past 14 days, 3) the adequate capacity of our health facilities to treat acutely ill patients requiring hospitalization, and 4) an adequate COVID testing capacity to rapidly detect new cases. We have met these benchmarks and now it is time to restore services and bring our force back to work.
With this in mind, I am confident we can continue to bring back more of our installation workforce to better support our mission of training warriors and taking care of families. While the numbers currently show positive trends, in these uncertain times, I want to do it slowly, safely and smartly.
Since the outbreak began, we’ve done an outstanding job of sustaining essential services and providing critical support so that our tenant commands can sustain operations. The MEF and tenant commands are still conducting their missions; Marines and Sailors from II MEF are deploying in support of global operations as well as the COVID response mission in the Northeast, and TECOM units continue to train Marines and sustain the entry level pipeline. Our bases and stations have provided critical support throughout and will continue to do so as we move forward.
Now it is time to expand capacity and restore non-essential services. Last week, our team at Marine Corps Community Services started gradually opening our fitness centers, outdoor recreational facilities, and mental health services by limiting capacity, mandating face coverings and social distancing, and ensuring venues were thoroughly cleaned during the day. Many of our administrative and dining facilities have been able to continue to serve customers using similar measures to mitigate the threat of this pandemic. Our hospital is implementing a phased reopening and will start to accept appointments for outpatient services on a limited basis. Our Child Development Centers will gradually expand capacity as health conditions and staffing permit. As we seek to expand more services, we will take a measured approach, adhering to state and federal guidelines and remain in close consultation with our Public Health Emergency Officers.
Ultimately, my top priority is to steadily return to normal operations to enable our tenant commands to conduct their missions while keeping our people safe. That means we must redouble our efforts to minimize risk while maximizing opportunities to train and conduct business aboard the base.
To that end during phase one, employees not designated as mission critical that are defined by CDC guidance for COVID-19 as high risk are not expected or required to return to work at this time. Office spaces and customer service areas at every one of our facilities must be in strict compliance with COVID-19 mitigation measures to prevent further spread of the virus; that means maintaining six feet of social distancing, frequently washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and wearing face coverings if social distancing cannot be maintained. This is a shared responsibility we must all take seriously. I urge each and every one of you to think creatively and aggressively for more preventative ways to keep us healthy and safe—set up virtual meetings, reduce touch points or use tape to maintain distancing. If we aren’t careful, disciplined, and vigilant, we could find ourselves experiencing an outbreak which would sabotage the progress we’ve already made.
This has been a challenging, uphill climb for the past couple of months, but we have learned a great deal about what we need to do to combat this virus. We have worked hard to get to this point and I am confident that if we continue to practice healthy habits across our installations and never let our guard down, we will prevail. Our installations are safe places to train because of the vigilance and dedication of our work force. I thank you again for your patience and teamwork.
J. D. ALFORD
Major General, United States Marine Corps/Commanding General, MCIEAST- MCB Camp Lejeune