Fort George G. Meade could see a number of COVID-19 restrictions lessen in the next two weeks.
The installation is currently in Health Protection Bravo, which determines the restrictions Fort Meade must undergo in order to keep the spread of COVID-19 low. However, the base has met all requirements for a health protection condition status change, Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Nyland said during a Thursday town hall.
One condition that needed to be met was a case rate of 2 cases per 100,000 people in the local area for two weeks. The case rate is now at 1 case per 100,000, one of the lowest since the pandemic began, Nyland said.
Senior leadership will make the decision on the status change within the next two weeks, Nyland said.
If Fort Meade changes to HPCON Alpha, it will join at least two other Maryland bases. The Naval Academy opened to the general public Friday after its health protection condition switched to Alpha.
Aberdeen Proving Ground switched last week, as well.
Moving to HPCON Alpha will likely result in capacity increases and changes to the child care centers, Nyland said.
Even when the installation does move to HPCON Alpha, Nyland cautioned that it is not a return to normal. Normal would be HPCON 0.
Nyland is also keeping an eye on the Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible. The variant has already caused the World Health Organization and Los Angeles County in California to urge people to wear masks inside.
At Fort Meade, there is almost no community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, except in children, who are too young to be vaccinated, Nyland said. He continued to encourage those who can to get vaccinated.
Health protection condition changes are not the only ones at the base.
Fort Meade is in a phase of road construction, which will likely not cease for another three or four years.
Currently, there is work being done to the Reece Road gate and the roads around it, causing a couple of roads on the base to close for an extended period of time.
The installation has also received funding that was originally redirected to build a wall at the country’s southern border. That funding will allow the base to do work on Cooper Avenue, and the installation will award the contract for that in September 2022, Nyland said.
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The Cooper Avenue project will likely last two to three years.
The road construction is meant to help prepare the base for the future as more Department of Defense employees come to the base, including to the National Security Agency, which is in the process of building five new properties. The NSA project will allow employees who have been working off-campus to call Fort Meade their new work home.
But the projects mean that residents will have to deal with construction for the foreseeable future.
“We all agree they’re necessary, but none of us enjoy living through the work while it’s being done,” Nyland said.
More work could be coming as well. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., and the other members of the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would provide $379 million for projects on Fort Meade.
The bill is in its early phases, as it still needs approval by the entire House of Representatives, but if passed and made into law, $81 million would go to improve the barracks on Fort Meade, $198 million would go to improving NSA buildings and $100 million would go to a Special Operation Forces facility, according to a release from Ruppersberger’s office.
Joint Base Andrews would also receive $26 million for a Fire/Crash Rescue station and the Bethesda Naval Hospital would receive $153.2 million.