Virtual town hall prepares community for “lockdown light”

After a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across Europe, German officials implemented month-long measures Nov. 2 to ward off another wave.

To bring clarity to the new regulations, 86th Airlift Wing commander Brig. Gen. Josh Olson and Command Chief Hope Skibitsky hosted a virtual town hall via the Ramstein Official Facebook page Oct. 30.

Joining them for the 40-minute discussion was 86th Medical Group commander, Col. (Dr.) Ryan Mihata, and the 86th Mission Support Group commander, Col. Robert Thompson. The team answered questions and detailed how Germany’s “lockdown light” will impact base services during the month of November.

Olson kicked off the discussion by reminding personnel to remain calm and remember lessons learned from months of operating under the threat of COVID-19.

“Continue to be disciplined, make good choices, wash your hands, wear a face covering, watch your distance and we’ll get through this,” Olson said.

Skibitsky echoed the commander’s sentiments and emphasized that Airmen should not allow COVID-19 fatigue to cause complacency. She urged Airmen to continue to support each other during this time.

With the previous host nation lockdown a recent memory, many KMC members wondered whether the same services and operations would cease as they had in the spring.

Previous restrictions coincided with a DoD-directed elevation of Health Protection Condition to Charlie for all military installations. Charlie measures drove many services to cease or alter operations until Ramstein was able to safely decrease its HPCON back to Bravo in June.

While the base is encouraged to be cautious and remain vigilant, Olson said an elevation of HPCON is not warranted at this time.

Thompson, who oversees base services and works in tandem with DoDEA leadership, confirmed there are currently no plans to change how schools or CDCs are operating throughout the KMC. Host nation regulations also allow off-base schools to remain open with COVID mitigation measures in place.

Seated dining in base restaurants has been replaced by take-out and delivery-only options, but Thompson said most other mission support group services can remain open.

Germany’s announcement called for a closure of fitness studios for the next month, which led many to ask whether the base will follow suit and close Fitness Centers.

Air Force Fitness Centers are now closed to civilians and family members for the month of November.  Limited access continues for only U.S. and NATO military members to enable them to maintain physical fitness and meet military readiness requirements.

Even still, thorough COVID-19 mitigation measures like limiting capacity, contract tracing and regular sanitation will be in place to preserve the health of the force.

Several questions centered on travel, both to the U.S. or to other risk areas in Germany. Olson emphasized that German officials are asking everyone to limit all non-essential travel.

“We really need to do a temporary ‘COVID deployment’ and stay home,” he said.

Skibitsky added, “We are guests in this country and Germany has asked us to fall in line with the guidance that they’ve placed out there, and unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged.”

She addressed that visits home during the holidays are an emotional event, and while travel to the United States can be authorized, travel comes with an acceptance of risk. She asked that everyone decide whether that trip has to happen right now.

Before signing off, Thompson asked the community to be smart, patient and kind. He urged members to think before reacting, especially when it comes to commenting on social media pages.

Mihata followed this sentiment by saying, “It’s very important that we consider others before ourselves. We’re not wearing these masks because it’s going to prevent me from getting sick. I’m wearing this mask because it’s going to prevent me, if I am sick, from getting [others] sick. Be mindful of those around you and who you are allowing in your bubble. We collectively have to work together to keep each other safe and healthy.”

In closing, Olson said he’s confident in Ramstein’s team of leaders, Airmen and families to get through this new set of challenges and get out of the red.

In order to do that, he reminded everyone to, “Protect our base by covering your face!”

For a full list of frequently asked questions and COVID-19 updates, please visit the Ramstein COVID-19 page at