The Naval District Washington (NDW) Recovery Working Group is developing plans for the region to change the health protection condition (HPCON) level when COVID-19 pandemic conditions on and adjacent to installations begin to improve. The plans will be based on Department of Defense guidance, state, and local public health surveillance data; guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; collaboration with state and local authorities; and advice from the command public health emergency officer and local military medical treatment facilities (MTF).
NDW assembled representatives from every N-code and tasked the group with deciding how the region will handle recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a reversal of the norm,” said Jeff Sanford, NDW recovery working group chair. “Before the pandemic, NDW on average probably had 10% of its workforce teleworking every day. “But because of COVID-19, we probably have over 90% of our personnel teleworking. Finding a way to get those people back into the office is now the big challenge.”
When NDW brings personnel back onto installations will be determined, in part, by gating criteria set by the federal government. Gating criteria includes a downward trajectory in the reporting of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases reported over a 14-day period. The criteria also requires a sustained 14-day decline in new COVID-19 cases.
“The cases are not increasing as quickly as before. What we’re looking for are cases to reach that flat line and then decrease. We’re hoping for a steady decline sometime soon,” said Sanford.
One of the major considerations of the recovery working group is having supplies ready for personnel to work safely in their spaces upon their return.
“If we decide we are bringing a certain amount of people onto the installations and reduce the number of people teleworking, we have to be prepared. For example, if there is a big supply-demand in terms of things like cleaning material, face coverings, and hand sanitizer, we must be prepared for that. We’re focused on getting ahead of that,” said Sanford.
Even after personnel head back to their office spaces and resume normal operations, measures will still be taken to keep them safe. Sanford says it is important that people embrace the “new normal” even after personnel return to the office.
“As we bring people back, we’re going to have to maintain six feet of physical distancing. We are going to have to develop some creative ways to do that. But, the new normal at work is probably going to be very similar to the way you go about things at the grocery store. You’re still going to maintain physical distancing and wear face coverings. It’s going to be an incremental, conservative phased approach to getting back to normal,” said Sanford.
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