AEDC commander hosts COVID-19 town hall Published April 21, 2020 By Bradley Hicks AEDC/PA ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Arnold Engineering Development Complex Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty hosted a virtual town hall April 8 to update AEDC personnel on steps being taken to mitigate COVID-19 exposure at Arnold Air Force Base, answer employee-submitted questions and address concerns shared among members of the workforce. The Facebook Live broadcast came less than a week after the first positive case of COVID-19 at Arnold was reported April 3 and days after base leadership announced a change in operating posture to reduce workforce risk. “I definitely want you to know that the leadership team at AEDC cares about you,” Geraghty said to open the town hall. “We care about your health. We are working day and night, weekends included, to try to make sure that we take care of your health. Once that’s taken care of, then we can get as much of the mission done as we can, the most important parts of the mission, and then we ensure that we take care of each other within Team AEDC, as well. Those are my priorities.” During his town hall, Geraghty said the shared goal among base leadership is to keep COVID-19 out of Arnold to the greatest extent possible and that the AEDC geographically separated units remain uninfected. “That’s still the risk mitigation posture that we have,” he said. “That’s why we have the base restricted access, that type of thing. We want to keep COVID-19 off our base entirely. However, we’re also committed to communicating transparently and, when there is a case, we are definitely going to let the workforce know. That’s just an effort to protect their health, as well.” The decision to move Arnold AFB to an “Operationally Urgent” posture took effect on April 6. In this posture, some mission activities are curtailed and access to the installation is limited to those employees required to complete critical test missions and support functions. For weeks, Arnold leaders have monitored the situation across the country and in surrounding counties, updating the base Health Protection Condition to keep personnel informed on the exposure risk. To limit those on base coming from COVID-19 “hotspots,” or areas with higher numbers of positive virus cases, 100 percent screening was implemented on March 21 for those seeking entry into the base. Geraghty said the posture implemented April 6 enhances the screening measures put in place March 21, helping to ensure mission-critical personnel residing or commuting from hotspot areas do not pose an increased exposure risk to others on base. “This new posture that was effective Monday was designed in large part to cut down, to a great extent, the number of people who are going to come on base and interact with each other. I think it’s been effective based on what I’ve seen this week,” Geraghty said. “There are many fewer people supporting the mission on base this week, which significantly reduces the possibility of the transmission of this disease.” Geraghty said the base restriction policy is strong and that Arnold leaders were proactive in their measures to protect base personnel. “As long ago as Feb. 28, we had already convened the Public Health Working Group and were figuring out ways to mitigate the threat,” Geraghty said. “Before a lot of people were even really taking this seriously, our team at AEDC was figuring out how to protect the health of the workforce right away.” To provide further protection, if a member of the workforce tests positive, the area in which that individual works will, if possible, be cordoned off to give the virus time to die. The area will also be cleaned in accordance with Center for Disease Control guidelines, Geraghty said. Military personnel at Arnold AFB are required to wear cloth face masks at all times, and Geraghty said he strongly encourages the mission essential Department of Defense civilians and contractors still working on base to do the same. Those testing positive or self-isolating must obtain doctor clearance and go 14 days without exhibiting symptoms before being allowed base access. Geraghty said there are no plans to close the Base Exchange or Commissary at this time. However, he said base leaders will take actions as required to protect the workforce. “If the counties surrounding us can continue to contain the threat and these stay-at-home policies continue to work, we will able to remain in our current posture until the threat subsides,” he said. Geraghty said he is looking forward to the return of business as usual at Arnold. Although the base remains in a state of risk mitigation, Geraghty said the Arnold leadership team is thinking ahead on how to return the base to a state of normal operations once the COVID- 19 threat has diminished. “The leadership team is actively planning right now for the moment when the threat subsides to enough of a degree that we can start to reinitiate as many of the elements of the mission as we can,” he said. “The leadership team is thinking it through with this basic simple question – ‘How quickly and how soon could we safely get back to doing the mission to the full degree?’” The town hall may be viewed at https://www.facebook. com/AEDCCommander/ videos/3363188177065432/.