Naval commander says health of personnel and military readiness remain equally as important during pandemic


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — With thousands of enlisted and civilian military personnel on and off area bases each day, the commander of U.S. Navy Region Mid-Atlantic said the coronavirus pandemic is one of the largest challenges they’ve ever faced.

Drastic changes have been made at all 14 bases, including the six in Hampton Roads, according to Rear Adm. Charles Rock.

Until further notice, visiting tours are suspended.

“We have instituted a ‘no-touching’ policy,” Rock said in a phone conference call Friday. “Government IDs should be scanned and not handed to personnel to avoid contact.”

When able, personnel is encouraged to telework to limit the number of personnel physically present at work. When at work, leadership is asking that the Navy actively participate in social distancing.

“And obviously it is very challenging for those on a shipboard environment to practice social distancing,” Rock said.

In order to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 at sea, Rock said medical personnel is screening all sailors as they come aboard.

Anyone who has traveled to a country where the outbreak is more prevalent, anyone who has had contact with a person who contracted COVID-19 and anyone who shows symptoms will immediately be ordered to restrict their movement.

If they live off-base, they will be required to self-quarantine for at least 14-days.

“Those (on-base) sailors, we have arranged or them to move into Navy lodging facilities that meets the CDC guidelines for isolation,” Rock said. “…includes their own room with no shared common areas such as a bath a kitchen or a laundry.”

A 60-day hold pattern for non-mission-essential travel, which includes permanent change of station orders, temporary and training duty.

“Our priority is the protection of our people and together I know we will get through this really challenging time,” Rock said.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, it was stated that “only mission-essential personnel should be going on base.” We have since corrected the statement to reflect that the base isn’t operating on an only misison-essential schedule. Instead, officials have increased teleworking opportunities.

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