Travis upgrades health protocols amid Covid-19 spread off base
The Fairfield Daily Republic, By Glen Faison
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — The base implemented an enhanced health alert Wednesday as a result of the new coronavirus situation in communities outside the base and said there were no confirmed cases on base.
The move by Travis officials to implement what they call Health Protection Condition Bravo follows a public health emergency declaration Feb. 27 at the base. Solano County declared a public health emergency the previous day.
“This is a moderate health alert in response to public health risks in the local community,” Tonya A. Racasner, 60th Air Mobility Wing deputy chief of public affairs, said in a prepared statement. “The decision to elevate the HPCON is independent of quarantine operations currently taking place on Travis (Air Force Base), and directly correlates to the evolving situation in the local area.”
Racasner in the statement Wednesday said the base’s action was also taken in response to “the sustained transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the surrounding community.”
The move comes two weeks after a Vacaville women became the first patient-to-patient or community-spread case of Covid-19 in the country that was not attributable to travel or close exposure to someone with the disease.
She arrived Feb. 15 at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville with flu-like symptoms and was transferred Feb. 19 to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento once her condition worsened. She was tested Feb. 23 for the new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19. Test results came back positive Feb. 26.
Testing protocols at the time from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention limited who and under what conditions people could be tested for the novel coronavirus. Only a limited number of test kits were available in California at the time. The CDC has since loosened its protocols for testing and additional test kits have arrived in the state.
Travis has served as a quarantine site for several waves of U.S. residents who repatriated to the U.S. from China and Japan. Hundreds of passengers – all California residents – from the Grand Princess cruise ship have arrived this week to begin 14 days in quarantine at the Westwind Inn.
The California Office of Emergency Services announced Wednesday that up to 120 California passengers from the cruise ship will be housed at a vacant hotel in San Carlos because they are exhibiting mild symptoms that may be from the new coronavirus but do not require hospitalization. Another 24 passengers were previously sent to Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, also because they were not free of symptoms.
None of those passengers have tested positive for Covid-19, Cal OES reports, but because they are symptomatic they cannot serve their 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base.
A total of 149 passengers from the Grand Princess were transported Monday from the cruise ship to Travis for quarantine, Cal OES reports. Another 613 passengers arrived Tuesday at Travis for quarantine.
Racasner said in the statement Wednesday that base officials were monitoring the situation as it relates to the new coronavirus and are “closely engaged” with Solano County Public Health and CDC officials.
Practical implications of the escalation to HPCON Bravo at the base include direction for those on the base to practice social distancing and refrain from physical contact such as shaking hands, fist bumps and similar activities; and cancellation of all gatherings of 100 or more people through April 30 unless they are mission-essential as directed by a unit commander.
“While this measure may seem drastic, it will help to mitigate potential community spreading on base,” Racasner said in the statement.
Military and civilian personnel and dependents on the base are being asked to continue standard anti-virus activities such as washing hands with liquid soap and water and rubbing them for at least 20 seconds; wiping common-use items with disinfectant; covering their mouth and nose with a tissue or their sleeve (not their hands) when coughing or sneezing; staying home if they are sick; and getting a flu shot to protect themselves and others from flu, which has similar symptoms to Covid-19.
On-base child care facilities remain open, Racasner said in the statement. Officials with the Travis School District will make decisions about school operations independent of the base’s actions.
Anyone who develops flu-like symptoms with fever and cough or shortness of breath and may have had contact with a person who has Covid-19 or had recent travel to countries considered high-risk are asked to contact their health care provider before seeking medical care to prevent possible transmission in the health care setting.
People who are normally seen at David Grant Medical Center are asked to first call the TRICARE nurse advice line at 1-800-874-2273 or the David Grant Medical Center appointment line at 707-423-3000 prior to coming to the hospital.
“This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation,” Racasner said in the statement. “We will continue to partner with local agencies to ensure the safety and welfare of our force and families.”