By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
Editor’s note: This was updated as of April 8, 2020. For the most up-to-date information visit https://www.carson.army.mil/, and follow Facebook @USArmyFortCarson.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson leaders emphasized the importance of following established guidelines in response to the international pandemic during a COVID-19 virtual town hall April 2, 2020.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about this virus, but what we do know is that taking the simple steps of minimizing interpersonal contact with other people, washing hands, enforcing social distancing and staying at home unless absolutely necessary, is our best defense and the only way we know to flatten the curve,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.
“We also need to understand the statistics,” he said. “This is not just a virus that affects the elderly. In Colorado, nearly 33 percent of positive cases are under the age of 40 and although these cases aren’t as deadly in younger people, there is the potential to transmit the virus to those who are high risk. We must change our behavior, even if that means being uncomfortable for a few weeks or months.”
To date, Fort Carson medical professionals have screened nearly 20,000 individuals, tested nearly 900 and established the Centralized Screening and Testing Center at Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH). After standing up a curbside pharmacy service, EACH leaders established a COVID-19 hotline linked directly to the hospital’s appointment booking service.
EACH has also expanded capacity at its isolation facilities and directed immediate quarantine for anyone who has had contact with an individual who has been tested.
“We’re not waiting for results,” McFarlane said. “We’ve also developed methods for screening both workers and patrons at our high traffic facilities, like the commissary, Exchange and the (Express stores), and have acquired equipment to do our own COVID-19 testing that should be operational in the next two weeks.”
The commanding general also said Fort Carson leaders are appreciative of people who have sent requests to volunteer.
“We’re looking at ways to make that possible, but one of the biggest ways people can help is by staying informed,” McFarlane said. “A majority of the questions we field at these town halls can be answered by going to our website at https://www.carson.army.mil/.”
McFarlane and Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, also discussed policies governing permanent change of station (PCS) and ride-sharing services.
Responding to the number of scams that have surfaced during the pandemic, McFarlane warned community members to be aware and cautious of criminal activity, and not to provide information to anyone who requests social security numbers, date of birth or bank account data. He also cautioned listeners to research organizations before making donations.
“During these uncertain and unprecedented times, our community is feeling extra stress,” he said. “As the situation continues to develop that added pressure will be felt more acutely across our installation. I want to remind everybody there are multiple resources across Fort Carson that can help. Our Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Mountain Post Living initiative is one. Our chaplain and religious support office are another, and our Army Community Service programs can educate our community on the federal and local measures designed to ease Families’ financial burdens.”
Holland addressed a few issues Soldiers and Families may be grappling with, including PCS orders under the Army’s stop-move order, the current plan-ahead for Basic Leader Courses and retention options for Soldiers who are close to separating.
“The Army is offering any Soldier who is within six months of their ETS period to extend anywhere from three to 11 months, to push your separation to the other side of this pandemic,” Holland said. “It gives Soldiers a little more financial security and a little bit of medical coverage for themselves and their Families.”
He urged Soldiers to approach their retention NCOs or chain of command for more information on the recent announcement.
In response to questions logged during the town hall, McFarlane briefly spoke about COVID-19 tests and that Mountain Post leaders have set up information channels on a few additional social media websites, including Instagram and Twitter.
“We plan to establish a program that produces COVID-19 test results in as little as 24 hours, but for now the turnaround is roughly 48 hours,” he said. “We’ve got to continue our efforts to double down on our social distancing guidelines to ensure the health of this post and our community members as we respond to this virus.”