By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
Editor’s note: This was updated as of Wednesday. For the most up-to-date information visit https://www.carson.army.mil/, and follow Facebook @USArmyFortCarson.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — As the nation moves well into its second month of response to the international COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Carson leaders updated community members with their latest news and guidance, while also clearing up some misconceptions during a virtual town hall April 22, 2020.
Adaptation was a key theme for Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, during the update, as he spoke on several topics related to the post’s pandemic response.
“I’m proud of the way all of our Soldiers, civilians and Families are responding to the threat of the virus, but we must move beyond protect and respond,” he said. “We are now focused on protecting the force and adapting our normal activities, while applying COVID-19 preventive measures to enable us to do what we get paid to do — be prepared to answer the nation’s call wherever and whenever it comes.”
He directly addressed Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ announcement that the state would transition from its stay-at-home order to a safer-at-home order.
“Despite these changes, all of the COVID-19 precautions of physical distancing, wearing of face coverings and staying at home as much as possible will remain in place, and for all of our Mountain Post Soldiers, general order two alpha still applies,” he said. “For those of you who plan to visit places that have been previously closed, understand you are exposing yourself to a new group of people who have not been a part of your daily interactions. This will put you at greater risk.”
The commanding general explained that Fort Carson has adapted its security posture, where a curfew exists between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., while also announcing that Fort Carson Family Homes has adapted its lawn care services to specific days and times.
“Here on post, we will continue to adapt training activities as well,” he said.
Starting April 27, 2020, leaders implemented squad-level, in-person accountability gatherings with proper distancing, followed by physical training in two-to-three Soldier teams, as well as some Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) activities.
“We will continue to evaluate what activities we can accomplish while adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines,” McFarlane said. “We will also begin to reopen some of our services like (DFMWR) activities and looking at options of signing out equipment such as cornhole, fishing poles and mountain bikes.”
Due to requests, leaders have also opened the Fort Carson Auto Skills Center, which includes limited hours, days, social distancing rules and cleaning guidelines.
McFarlane cautioned community members that even though the safer-at-home order eases some restrictions, they must remain vigilant against the virus threat.
“We do not want to experience a complacency spike,” he said. “In this crucial period, individual actions matter. Your actions matter. Continue to take care of yourselves and your Families. Continue to check on and take care of each other. In spite of our physical separation, we will get through this together.”
Responding to questions via the virtual town hall, McFarlane reiterated the DOD has authorized Soldiers to accumulate additional annual leave in excess of 60 days, but not to exceed 120 days.
While Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, informed community members they must follow established guidelines and wear face coverings while visiting facilities on post, he also announced the 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard would begin conducting area rides twice each week. The color guard conducted its first neighborhood ride April 28, 2020.
Holland also provided guidance about current and future military schooling such as the Basic Leader Course and NCO academy.
Following Holland, Col. Eric S. Edwards, commander, Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) relayed current information about EACH and its continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He covered topics related to anti-viral medications and anti-body testing, while providing the latest statistics on the hospital’s Centralized Screening and Testing Center.
McFarlane capped the update by announcing that Fort Carson has extended the allowed travel radius for Soldiers and Families from 30 miles outside Fort Carson, to 40 miles.
“This change was reset to allow Soldiers and Families to conduct hikes at some other locations further from the post,” he said. “We limited it to 40 miles because of some hotspots north of Colorado Springs that have a prevalence of COVID-19 floating around those communities.”
Responding to a question from a viewer, McFarlane reiterated Fort Carson leaders were not in the process of opening things back up.
“We are learning as we apply COVID-19 measures like face coverings, social distancing and the intense cleaning of all things people touch,” he said. “These measures allow us to get more done, given our conditions. So we are adapting to conditions. No one wants the gyms open more than me. But the bottom line is we think there is still an increased risk, based on the amount of people and activities.”
He said post leaders are looking at different ways they can allow people to use specific gyms inside main gyms, but that there will be severe restrictions when and if those openings are announced.
“We are looking at it closely,” he said. “We will have more information next week. Keeping everyone safe is our No. 1 priority moving forward.”