Biloxi, MS. – Col. Heather W. Blackwell, commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi shared the following about its fight against COVID-19.
The base has had mitigation measures in place the past seven weeks and deliberate actions have been taken to restrict the base and to slow the spread of the virus.
“I understand that many retirees have taken offense to my latest mitigation measure of only allowing them to shop at the Commissary and BX on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Col. Blackwell. “We waited as long as we could to limit Commissary access to retirees and it pained me to do it. But it is only a temporary measure, and we will reassess as we monitor our numbers and Governor Reeves’s guidance for Mississippi. Those with an audience with our retirees, please remind them that this is temporary and we will lift it as soon as possible. We are faithful to our proud heritage and respect them for what they have done for our country.”
The commissary hours:
– Monday through Saturday: Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and Spouses authorized
– Tuesdays and Thursdays: Retirees are authorized. All other personnel directed to give retirees priority on those days
– Sunday: 0900 to 1500, Tech School Students only. 1500 to 1900, Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and Spouses authorized
“Six weeks ago we restricted our trainees to the triangle, and they have had zero access to the Commissary or BX since then,” said Col. Blackwell. “We have been successful in ensuring the health of our training population so come this Sunday, we’ve shut the Commissary and BX down to everyone except our technical school trainees. I bet this will be the tastiest Taco Bell or Arby’s they’ve had in a long time!”
Col. Blackwell says they are making efforts to keep training population and retiree population isolated from each other. One population (trainees) can be COVID carriers and not even know it while the retiree population is at a higher risk for serious infection.
“The work that has kept us most busy over this past week and a half is our quarantine area. We now have nearly 200 personnel in quarantine for various reasons (i.e. potential exposure, TDY here from another area, etc.). Just one positive COVID case causes many others to be quarantined,” said Col. Blackwell.
“Very few in our quarantine area are COVID-positive, but we are being very deliberate and following the CDC’s guidelines of 14-day quarantine to ensure we protect others. Keeping our personnel in the quarantine area fed and looking after their mental well-being is quite a task on top of keeping the hospital open and our training pipelines fully mission capable,” said Col. Blackwell.
Keesler is honored to be part of this community and wants to ensure the community it’s doing everything possible to maintain strong community bonds, even during the physical distancing of this national crisis.