Grissom and COVID

As Grissom Airmen return to duty after months of pandemic-related restrictions, the 434th Aerospace Medicine Squadron prepares to catch up on a backlog of readiness requirements while also maintaining the safety of Grissom’s Airmen. (Air Force File Photo / A1C Harrison Withrow, October 24, 2018)

The medical squadron at Grissom Air Reserve Base is urging caution and taking steps to protect airmen as the military installation begins to resume reserve activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While much of Grissom’s workforce has already returned to the base, many more will be arriving in July for the first time since the pandemic began.

That includes reservists arriving for a four-day drill weekend in July. Around 600 of those reservists need to have a physical health assessment.

Lt. Col. Eric Lewandowski, 434th AMDS flight surgeon who has been helping Grissom combat the pandemic in recent months, said that poses problems, and the base is working to balance safety with its mission.

“The military doesn’t have the option to just shut down,” he said in a release. “We still have a mission to do, so we had to figure out ways to mitigate our health risks while remaining operational.”

At the clinic, which is often crowded during physical assessments, staff will continue the current policy of scanning temperatures of everyone who comes in to ensure that no one showing symptoms enters the building.

Lewandowski said they are also looking at ways to reduce the crowding at the clinic, such as setting up outdoor tents where assessments can be performed.

“We want to keep a steady flow and minimize the amount of traffic coming through at any one time,” he said. “It’s a four-day drill weekend, so we’re going to spread that work out over all four days, and hopefully be able to get a significant number of people current again.”

Lewandowski also encouraged airmen to use their own good judgement.

“If you’ve been in the clinic during a drill weekend before, you know there’re people lining the halls, and there’s only so much we can do to mitigate that,” he said. “So I encourage everyone to use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing, and if you’re not feeling well, don’t risk exposing others.”

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, said Grissom is taking necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus, but there is still work to do.

“We can do it, but we’ve got to take the appropriate precautions and ensure that we get our readiness levels back to what they need to be in a safe and efficient manner,” he said in a release. “ … We can’t do our mission without our people, so we will do all we can to protect them.”

Shaw also urged airmen to be cautious and follow best practices to stay healthy.

“I need everyone to maintain prevention standards by cleaning and sanitizing, maintaining social distancing when you can, and wearing a mask when you can’t,” he said. “And as always, wash your hands!”

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