TYNDALL — Tyndall Air Force Base is in a modified phase 1 of reopening after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the facility might transition to phase 2 soon.
Tyndall began its reopening phase on May 4 and it was part of a three-phase reopening process. Each phase’s timeline is 14 days, but moving on to the next phase is based on data trends of the virus.
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The three-phase approach is designed by medical experts and base leadership. It will also work in concert with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step: Plan for Florida’s Recovery.”
Even though the state of Florida has been making progress to reopening, Tyndall is still in a modified phase 1 stage. It’s due to Bay County being in a unique situation when it comes to the virus.
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“The unique thing about Bay County is it has made it hard to interpret the data because with few cases, it’s hard to find a trend,” said Lt. Col. Michael Askegren, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron commander of Tyndall Air Force Base. “One case may be the spike for the week or two cases may be the spike for the week, so it’s kind of hard to interpret Bay County.”
If Tyndall were to transition to phase 2 of reopening, it would mean that common facilities like the fitness center and the Child Development Center would reopen with strict social distancing guidelines. Gatherings would be limited to 50 people or less compared to 10 people in phase 1.
The CDC, School Age Program, and Youth Programs will be open for mission essential personnel only. Masks will still be required at the base Exchange, commissary, and Express.
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Even though the guidelines from President Donald Trump is that each phase would need to be a minimum of two weeks before the Air Force could transition to phase 2, Tyndall AFB didn’t put a specific timeline to transition to phase 2. Each phase still has to be a minimum of 14 days and after that the base looks at the data before moving to the next phase.
Base leadership meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to find out what the data shows them and constant guidance changes. The process has been difficult because it seems like every other day, especially in the first couple of months of the shutdown, there was new information.
Tyndall AFB is looking forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy again.
“We’ve seen both sides of the coin,” Askegren said. “We’ve seen folks that want to come back and get back to work and we’ve seen the other side with people who want to take a little bit slower and protect themselves and their family.”
Data is still being pulled from the state of Florida and even Alabama to see what is going on in those communities. According to Askegren, since the number of cases have been constant and the criteria has been met to move into phase 2, that recommendation is on the horizon.