Our mission has always been to support the readiness of our operational forces AND to protect the force. Our health care system remains strong and the number of active COVID 19 cases remains relatively low in Eastern NC. The conditions are now favorable to begin restoring a limited number of non-critical services starting on May 4th.

The coronavirus has been an unprecedented global pandemic for which there are no easy answers and no one-size-fits-all solutions. In contrast to many metropolitan areas, most of the regions around our installations are fortunately seeing the rate of new COVID-19 cases trending downward, and the recovery rate remains high; that's a credit to you and your willingness to abide by the federal, state, local and DoD directives. These are promising trends that lead me to believe we can start gradually easing some of the restrictions in accordance with federal guidelines while conducting mitigating actions to reduce risk. We will do so in a slow, methodical, and responsible manner to avoid undermining all that we've accomplished and put our Marines, Sailors, civilians and families' health at risk. It only takes one outbreak to stop everything in its tracks. To that end, we are going to take some small steps while monitoring state and local government's approach and consulting regularly with our Public Health Emergency Officers (PHEOs) for guidance.

(As of) Monday, May 4th, I am authorizing the reopening of Onslow Beach, some outdoor recreational activities, and in-person mental health services. Each of these openings will be accompanied by strictly-enforced COVID-19 mitigation measures that will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

That means:

1) No gatherings in groups of 10 or more

2) Social distancing

3) The wearing of face coverings where maintaining six feet isn't possible, and

4) Limits on occupancy of certain facilities.

To enhance the operational readiness of our warfighters, I am authorizing a phased re-opening of the fitness centers with limited occupancy to active duty service members only beginning May 8th. This will occur with public health and leadership oversight. We are also continuing to look at a way forward to reopen all of our Child Development Centers to children of non-essential workers in the future, but that will take time and involve close coordination with our public health experts.

Restoring our bases and stations to this 'new normal' isn't going to happen overnight. It's going to involve a smart, phased approach that will require us to monitor, watch, and measure the health effects before more meaningful changes can happen. I want to thank all our installations for their efforts to keep critical services going, and to those who we support, I ask for your collective patience in the weeks and months ahead.

Finally, I need each and every one of you to take an active part in this ongoing fight against the pandemic. Your leadership and individual actions are making a difference. Whether it's keeping your distance, washing your hands regularly, or wearing face coverings, all of it has helped contribute to stopping the spread of the virus. Complacency during these times will disrupt everything we have worked so hard to accomplish, so keep at it! We will get through this.

Thank you, and Semper Fidelis,

J. D. ALFORD, Major General, United States Marine Corps and Commanding General, MCIEAST-MCB Camp Lejeune