Some child care facilities and the gym at Fort George G. Meade will be able to start reopening as the U.S. Army Military District of Washington downgrades the health protection condition.
Fort Meade has been operating under health and force protection “Charlie,” which allowed very little to be open, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Facilities such as gyms and child care have remained closed on the post, even as they opened in surrounding Anne Arundel County.
Fort Meade, as well as other installations under the Army Military District of Washington — Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Myer and Meade — are now at health protection Bravo moderate, meaning there is still increased community transmission.
The decision to downgrade the health protection condition came from with the Fort Meade Medical Department Activity and the health department of the surrounding counties. Fort Meade does not provide the number of COVID-19 cases, citing mission security. Anne Arundel, where approximately 40% of employees live, has 5,092 cases with 199 deaths, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Howard County, where approximately 24% live, has 2,543 cases with 82 deaths, according to the county health department.
Spragg and his team looked at four metrics — ability to test, ability to monitor, ability to treat and the number of cases — when making the recommendation for Bravo, he said.
About 11,000 people live on Fort Meade. Around 58,000 people work on the base.
Despite the downgraded health protection condition, many employees are still being urged to telework, said Mary Doyle, chief of media relations.
The base is also still considered restricted, which mostly matters for those who are coming or leaving due to permanent change of station. If a person leaves a restricted base, they need approval from a higher level officer versus an unrestricted base where approval is done at the battalion level, he said.
When the childcare centers open next week, Meade will be considered unrestricted.
Under Bravo, those at Fort Meade are to continue to social distance and avoid unnecessary travel. People should continue to wear a mask and wash their hands.
“Remember COVID-19 has not been defeated,” said Fort Meade Garrison Commander Col. Erich Spragg during a Monday evening town hall. “It’s still out there. But if we remain vigilant and disciplined with our good habits, we can continue our positive momentum and inch closer to transitioning from Bravo to Alpha.”
HPCON Alpha is the next step down from Bravo. Normal condition would be HPCON 0, Spragg said in an interview.
The base is also in Force Protection Condition Bravo, Spragg said. It was temporarily upgraded to FPCON Charlie due to the recent protests following the death of George Floyd, who killed by police.
Spragg previously said during a town hall that once the base’s health protection condition was downgraded he could start making recommendations for reopening facilities, including the gym and childcare facilities.
This was not about speed, Doyle said in an email.
“Practicing good discipline in our mitigation measures is what got us to this point.,” she said in her email. “Physical distancing, wearing masks, frequent handwashing and avoiding crowds will still be part of our Fort Meade lifestyle for the foreseeable future.”
While the base’s health protection condition was downgraded, facilities that were closed will not open immediately, with many start dates after the Fourth of July holiday. Each garrison activity presented their reopening plan to Spragg, Doyle said in an email.
This includes facilities that are already open in other parts of the state.
“So we said all along, although the state’s gonna come down quick, there’s gonna be a lag between what the state does and then what I do,” Spragg said.
The first two child care facilities will open on July 6. A second wave of child care facilities will open two weeks later, with the remaining ones opening Aug. 3, Spragg said during Monday’s town hall.
But even with child care facilities opening, the base will not be handle the same amount of children it did before the coronavirus pandemic, Spragg told The Capital. Even once the base opens all the facilities, the number of children that can attend will be about 700 shy.
The base will not be able to resume its typical numbers at child care facilities until the base reaches HPCON 0, which will not happen until there is a vaccine, Spragg said.
Gaffney Fitness Gym will also open on July 6 to service members only with a military ID with one-hour time limitations. The shower, sauna and pool inside the gym will remain closed, Spragg said.
Restaurants are also beginning to open with some indoor dining.
Lanes Pin Deck Café will offer outdoor seating and carry out starting July 6. Restaurants in the Fort Meade Exchange food court are open with indoor seating. Dining time is limited to 30 minutes, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Face masks are required when not dining.
The downgraded condition also means people entering the commissary or the exchange will not need their temperature checked, Doyle said.
Pools are not likely to open, Spragg said. He will not open the pool at the fitness center, which the garrison operates. The other pools are owned by Corvias, which manages housing on the base. Spragg recommended that the pools not open, but the decision is ultimately up to Corvias.
A full list of what is and is not open on Fort Meade is available at the fort’s website, https://home.army.mil/meade.
Joint Base Andrews, in Prince George’s County, also downgraded to health protection condition Bravo Monday morning. Prince George’s County is one of the hardest-hit counties in Maryland when it comes to COVID-19.
There were 18,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as 10 a.m. Monday in Prince George’s County, according to the state health department. The county has 657 deaths, the second-highest death toll in the state.
As with Meade, maximum telework is still encouraged and masks are required in public places at Andrews. Mass gatherings are also limited to 40-50% of capacity, or less than 250 people, whichever is less, according to a release from the base. Those at Joint Base Andrews are also encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel.
The food court at Andrews is open, although there is no indoor dining. Childcare facilities are open with limitations.
Latest Anne Arundel County
A full list of facilities that are open and closed is available at https://www.jba.af.mil/Home/COVID-19-Coronavirus/.