Is Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command Bremerton continues efforts to help stop the spread of the pandemic outbreak, staff members remain vigilant to any potential lapses in place.
For the upcoming long Fourth of July weekend, festive gatherings, crowded concerts and paraded pageantry have been supplanted by the sustained need for following prescribed mitigation strategies to curtail the impact of the coronavirus.
“Now, more than ever, it is important to continue to practice social distancing, best hygiene practices, and continue to wear our facial coverings when in public establishments or in group settings,” stated Navy Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton COVID-19 lead and public health emergency officer.
Navy messaging is blunt and to the point regarding the possibility that any inaction and inadvertent action by anyone related to in-place mitigation measures can put fleet, fighter and/or family at risk.
The overarching Navy goal is to not let one Sailor, civilian or family member become imperiled to COVID-19 due to complacency, especially now after approximately three months of restrictive measures in place, followed by a gradual lessening of those measures in some areas coinciding with the start of summer, as well as the forthcoming holiday weekend.
Add to the mix recent adjustments to state and county COVID-19 related restrictions that are still in place – albeit not as restrictive – there is opportunity to travel, engage in social activities, even frequent eateries on and off base.
“We have been more fortunate than most with regards to number of cases we have seen. But we have started to notice an increase in the number of cases since moving to Phase II in the local communities,” noted Uniszkiewicz. “This was not unexpected but clearly shows that we must remain vigilant as COVID-19 is still in our community. People become comfortable and, often inadvertently, ease their protective measures, let down their facial covering, and are lulled into a false sense of security. This would be a mistake. While it is exciting to be able to go out in town for the first time in months, enjoy the summer weather, and plan for the holiday weekend, we must continue the personal safety measures that have proven effective for our community.”
According to Mike Pearson, NMRTC Bremerton safety and occupational health manager, complacency on the job has always been a concern, and even more so during this time of COVID-19 in a military medical treatment facility (MTF).
“Now is not the time to be complacent by anyone. Preventing COVID-19 from spreading isn’t somebody else’s job. It’s everybody’s job,” said Pearson.
NMRTC Bremerton has proactively required all staff, especially active duty, to understand the current – and mandatory - Health Protection Guidance (HPCON) Bravo measures in place.
HPCON Bravo requires that physical distance be maintained of at least six feet from others. Cloth face coverings are to be worn when in close contact with others for 15 or more minutes, and a distance of six feet can’t be maintained.
“Those measures are how we can protect ourselves and how we can protect others,” Pearson said.
HPCON Bravo also calls for practicing strict hygiene guidelines, such as frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, no handshaking, fist bumps, or high fives, and limit get-togethers to no more than 10 with physical distancing in place.
“We also want everyone to avoid close contact with sick people, stay home if sick to reduce contact with others as much as possible; cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to avoid spreading germs; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs,” added Pearson.
For Terry Lerma, NMRTC Bremerton emergency preparedness manager, just being able to see the changes the command has established to streamline care for patients during COVID-19 helps maintain his awareness to the task at hand.
“Constant vigilance and preparedness is the price of safety and security for our MTF staff and beneficiaries. We all get visual reminders just driving in and seeing that initial screening tent, our Sailors with their cloth face-masks directing traffic, and even how our normal routine now has such things like plastic shield guards in place where needed. Every little bit helps,” Lerma said.
As Uniszkiewicz stated earlier, “my cloth face covering protects you. Your cloth face covering protects me.”