Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Fort Leavenworth leaders and subject matter experts gathered to answer questions about coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, and how the post is being affected during a Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth live Facebook Town Hall March 18.
Lt. Gen. James Rainey, CAC and Fort Leavenworth commanding general, was joined by CAC and Fort Leavenworth Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Dostie, Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung, Munson Army Health Center Commander Col. Scott Mower and Unified School District 207 Superintendent Keith Mispagel for the Town Hall.
“I understand that these are incredibly stressful times, that there’s a lot of confusion and that this is a trying point in time for everybody,” Rainey said. “The most important thing you can do, your part of this, is to protect yourself and your loved ones; so if you feel sick, if somebody in your family feels sick, if you think you might have been exposed to somebody with the virus … I am telling you to stay home. That is more important than any orders, guidance, leave policy or pass policy.
“Secondly, we all need to communicate well,” he said. “Take responsibility on your end to make sure you’re actively looking for the latest and most current information, especially as it pertains to protecting yourself. … Our mission is to protect the force, protect the Army.”
Following Rainey’s opening remarks, he and the rest of the panel, with some SMEs, answered questions made in the comments throughout the Town Hall, including “What is COVID-19 and why are people reacting so strongly to it,” “What has been impacted on Fort Leavenworth,” “What is to be expected of the rest of the schoolyear,” teleworking and more.
What is COVID-19?
Lt. Col. Julie Hundertmark, MAHC family practice physician, said COVID-19 is a new type of virus that has some unknowns.
“The reason why we are taking the measures that we are taking is we do not know a lot about this particular virus other than being able to look at the previous countries that have had problems with this virus and knowing that it is highly contagious and that we are doing things to try to help prevent us from getting to the point where we have high curves of lots of people being infected,” Hundertmark said. “We are wanting to take measures to flatten the curve so that we can decrease how many people are exposed so that we can help us not have as many cases around where we are at.”
Other unknowns include how the virus is spread, which is why the use of masks are reserved for those showing symptoms, Hundertmark said.
For specifics on how to protect yourself from COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/ or https://home.army.mil/leavenworth/?fbclid=IwAR0C_VH6DAZ9QzibuPQL1ZR6BLgsK1VIdYR5Ax9Tqsw6YY1hluAEqj0BVwQ.
What has been impacted on Fort Leavenworth?
Hung provided an update on the most recent changes to Fort Leavenworth including closures and modifications to various services including post access, the fitness facilities, the chapels, dining facilities, the child development centers, canceled events and more.
For the most up-to-date list of post closures and modifications, visit the Fort Leavenworth Facebook page.
What is to be expected of the rest of the schoolyear?
On March 17, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced the closing of all Kansas public school buildings — including USD 207 — through the end of the schoolyear. Mispagel addressed the district’s current plans for finishing the schoolyear.
“With the closing of the school buildings that does not mean that a continuous learning plan will not be in place. Just the opposite,” Mispagel said. “The state Department of Education is developing, as recent as tonight, a learning plan guideline for all Kansas school districts, which will include a combination of digital learning, workbooks and resources that will be delivered by USD 207 staff to our families.
“As we roll out this plan, families can expect communication from myself or my team in the next couple weeks,” he said. “We know there will be many questions from families and as information is available and plans are formalized, we will share those out immediately.”
There will also be a way for students to retrieve items left at school. For items that are needed immediately, call the central office at (913) 651-7373 or e-mail Mispagel at email@example.com.
In regard to the Command and General Staff College, starting when students return from spring break March 23, classes will be held virtually for two weeks, Rainey said.
“That’s based on all the recommendations of the health experts to practice social distancing,” Rainey said. “We’re taking this a couple of weeks at a time and we’re erring on the side of caution.”
The Army Education Center colleges will have virtual classes only.
Currently, the priority for setting up teleworking is for those most at risk, which includes people 65 years and older or those with compromised immune systems, when the need arises.
“If you find yourself in that situation, go back to my first rule,” Rainey said. “If you think you’re at risk or you’re placing your family member at risk, I trust you to do the right thing. Err to the side of caution. … The deal I’ll make with you is that you call your chain of command and explain that.”
Quarantine vs. isolation
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick,” while “isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.”
For more information, visit cdc.gov. For more information specifically related to COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
MAHC does not have the ability to perform COVID-19 tests, but can take samples. MAHC does not take walk-ins for testing. To make an appointment, call the Nurse Hotline 1(800) 874-2273 or the Call Center at 684-6250.
For any nonmedical related questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 684-1776.
To view the full Town Hall video, visit the U.S. Army CAC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USACAC/videos/1382584611921099.