Rachael Riley
| The Fayetteville Observer

As Fort Bragg continues to administer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to those who meet guidelines, the installation still remains at the same health protection level it has been under since March. 

The post has operated under a health protection level of “Charlie” during most of the COVID-19 pandemic, with leaders continuing to monitor the virus’s impact in local communities and the state.

 “Charlie” means there is a substantial threat of an epidemic outbreak.

“Consistent across the country, we continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases both on and off post,” said Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, in a Dec. 14 post shared on Fort Bragg’s Facebook page.  “Therefore, we will remain in Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie, the same condition we have been in for the last few months

Kurilla said COVID-19 will be defeated by “herd immunity,” which means 70% of a population is immunized. 

And though vaccines are being distributed among some of Fort Bragg’s population, leaders ask the community to continue to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. 

Here’s a look at Fort Bragg’s latest updates related to activities on post. 

Vaccines on Fort Bragg

On Tuesday, Womack Army Medical Center officials reminded those around Fort Bragg that vaccines are currently being administered to “Phase 1” recipes, who are healthcare providers, first responders and personnel preparing to deploy to outside continental U.S. locations.

“At this time, active-duty service members, retirees and dependents are asked to refrain from calling the COVID hotline regarding vaccine availability,” Womack officials said Tuesday, adding that high-risk beneficiaries will be contacted once Womack enters into its next phase of vaccine administration. 

COVID-19 testing on Fort Bragg

Womack Army Medical Center officials have asked those not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to seek guidance from their primary care physician, public health or to make an appointment at the drive-thru testing site instead of going to the Womack Army Medical Center Urgent Care Clinic.  

“This is an effort to minimize your exposure to an environment that is seeing symptomatic patients,” officials said. 

The drive-thru testing site is near the emergency department and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed from noon to 1 p.m.

Those with symptoms can go to the Womack Army Medical Center Urgent Care Clinic between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or the emergency department after hours and on weekends.

Fort Bragg schools

Department of Defense Education Activity officials have said that remote learning will continue until Fort Bragg’s health protection condition level is upgraded to a “Bravo” level. 

In December, Kurilla said he does not see Fort Bragg’s level downgrading to Bravo “for the foreseeable future,” because of the virus’s rates on and off post. 

“However, I believe we can safely operate our schools in the current environment through proper mitigation,” he said, telling community members he’s made a request for the Department of Defense Education Activity to not base in-person attendance on the post’s health protection condition level. 

“Our own Fort Bragg child development centers are proof that we can provide world-class care for our children while exercising COVID mitigation,” Kurilla said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t have cases — it means we can properly mitigate them when we do.” 

It will take 10 days to plan for transitioning back to face-to-face instruction once a decision is made about returning to schools on Fort Bragg, Kathy Downs, the Department of Defense Education Activity community superintendent who oversees the schools on Fort Bragg, has said during Fort Bragg community information exchange meetings. 

Fort Bragg travel restrictions

As of Jan. 4, Fort Bragg remains on the Department of Defense’s list of installations where travel restrictions have not been lifted. 

Criteria for lifting restrictions include a health protection level below “Charlie” and a two-week declining trend of COVID-19 cases. 

Company, battery, troop and detachment commanders are the approving authority for local and nonlocal leaves and passes.

Visitors on Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg is still closed to non-Department of Defense personnel unless an exception to the policy is approved. 

Passes for seven days or less can be approved by a company, trooper or battery commander. 

Passes between eight and 30 days can be approved by a battalion or squadron commander, and passes between 31 to 90 days will need approval from the first general officer within a chain of command. 

Request forms for Fort Bragg’s exception to policy can be found online. 

Fort Bragg gyms

To comply with state guidance, masks are required in fitness centers even when exercising unless there is an age, disability or health exception.

Other Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs

Most annual events, such as Christmas tree lighting or the 82nd Airborne holiday concert have been held virtually. 

Outdoor activities including the golf courses, the Fort Bragg Clay Target Center, Rod and Gun and Club and parks and running trails and tracks are open during operating hours. 

Playgrounds, restrooms at parks, sports fields and softball fields remain closed, and intramural sports, bingo and bowling alleys have not been operating. 

All areas of Throckmorton Library remain closed, with the exception of the computer lab for limited patronage.

Cleland Iceland Ice Skating Rink is open for open skate 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday; 3 to 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

All patrons will be required to sign in, will be screened prior to entering the ice rink and must wear facial coverings on and off the ice, officials said. 

There will also be a limit of 75 participants, and all locker rooms are closed.

Tolson indoor pool is open from 11 a.m to  4 p.m. Saturdays for recreational swim by reservation only to Department of Defense cardholders.

All patrons will be screened before entering the pool. Patrons are required to have face coverings on-hand, wear them in the restroom and when maintaining social distancing is not possible. 

Reservations can be made in person or by calling 910-643-8533 between noon and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday 

Each reservation is for a one-hour time slot. 

Patrons must come ready to swim, as locker rooms are closed and no changing area is available. 

Tucker indoor pool is open for unit reservations, physical therapy and lap swim only. Reservations are required and must be made in person. 

Lap swim hours are between 11 a.m and 1 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528. 

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