The rise of COVID-19 cases, linked to the spread of the delta variant, has caused Fort George G. Meade and its tenant agencies to take a 180-degree shift in its approach to restrictions.
Fort Meade leadership recommended the installation move to Health Protection Condition Alpha after reaching a local case rate of 2 cases per 100,000 people. The case rate rose to 3.5 cases per 100,000 while the decision was being made, prompting the installation to remain at HPCON Bravo. The decrease to alpha would have lessened capacity restrictions at several of the facilities.
The local area is considered Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Nyland said during the garrison’s bimonthly town hall.
“However, COVID, like many of the enemies of our country has proven itself resilient and wily, and the Delta variant has reared its head,” Nyland said.
The Meade garrison will follow and enforce the Department of Defense guidelines around mask use, which mandate indoor masks when there is substantial or high community transmission, which equals to about an average of 50 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, Nyland said.
The Fort Meade local area has moderate transmission, as it is currently seeing about 38 cases per 100,000 people over the week’s time. However, the rate is increasing, and Nyland said it is very possible that in a week or two Meade could hit the threshold for substantial transmission.
The garrison sets the bare minimum for the installation and its tenant agencies, but agencies can add increased restrictions. The National Security Agency, located at Fort Meade, is requiring indoor mask use on its properties, Nyland said, as is one of the companies.
“As we look ahead in regards to the COVID situation, obviously, I know many of us feel as if we are done with COVID, but COVID isn’t done with us,” Nyland said.
Nyland encouraged those who have not received the vaccine to reconsider their decisions, especially those made during the early stages of vaccine rollout. Currently, the Fort Meade area is about 55 to 60% vaccinated, which is about the Army’s average, he said.
“The science has proven the single most effective thing we can do to protect ourselves, to protect our families, to protect our communities is to get vaccinated,” he said.
Nyland was unable to answer questions on the guidance from President Joe Biden, which encourages all federal employees to get vaccinated and imposes strict safety measures for those who chose not to get it. He had not seen the executive order language yet, he said.
On Friday, the president announced that he had asked the Department of Defense to look into making the vaccine mandatory for members of the military, which would affect some Fort Meade residents and employees.
The Naval Academy will remain in HPCON Alpha and be open to visitors, according to its coronavirus website. Like Fort Meade, masks are not required inside for those who are vaccinated due to the academy being in an area of moderate transmission, although it will change if it becomes substantial.
Guests who are not local will have to wear masks inside if they are coming from an area where there is substantial or high transmission, according to the academy’s website.
The Naval Academy was unable to answer questions about vaccines.