NAS Whidbey tightens COVID restrictions
— Created October 21, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
A rise in the number of Whidbey Island residents testing positive for COVID-19 has prompted Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to tighten some of its health and safety protocols for active duty personnel.
“Similar to the Governor’s modification of Phases, we occasionally adjust our policies to limit the risk of community spread,” said Mike Welding, public affairs officer for NAS Whidbey Island. “At this time we are restricting the size of groups both on and off base and are also restricting our personnel from participating in activities where they will be in close contact while not wearing a mask.”
Welding would not comment on whether any positive cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed on the base.
“Due to operational security concerns, The Department of Defense (DOD) does not release the number of infected individuals at the unit, facility or geographic area level,” he told Whidbey Weekly in an email.
Island County Public Health officials also would not comment, referring us back to NAS Whidbey.
As of last Friday, active duty sailors may no longer dine inside restaurants and must use take-out services only. Bars, night clubs and casinos – public or private – are off limits. Off-duty gatherings are limited to five guests and outdoor events are preferred. In addition, visitors from high-risk areas are strongly discouraged.
For sailors in Restriction of Movement (ROM), or isolation, status, his/her family should follow the same restrictions unless the sailor can be completely separated from his/her family in the home. If a sailor chooses to isolate with his/her family, the service member’s children and/or spouse should also isolate. Local school districts will support ROM students through distance learning until they can return to school.
While these restrictions are mandatory for active duty personnel, civilian staff, contractors and dependents are encouraged to follow these guidelines as well.
The new guidelines follow a sharp increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Island County over the past couple of weeks. As of press time, Island County Public Health reported there have been a total of 368 COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. That figure is up 28 from the previous week’s numbers (Oct. 12).
Washington State health officials are encouraging fewer, shorter and safer interactions, adding they are crucial to keep the spread of virus from growing exponentially. And, with Halloween just around the corner, officials offer the following recommendations:
– Wear a cloth face covering that fits snugly over your nose and mouth.
– Avoid confined spaces. Outdoor activies are safer than indoor activities.
– Avoid close contact with people outside of your household; stay six feet away.
– Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
– Stay home if you are sick or recently exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Health officials are discouraging Halloween gatherings, events or parties with non-household members that violate the gathering limitations outlined in the Safe Start Plan. Island County is currently in a modified Phase III. Traditional trick-or-treating (handing candy to children who knock on your door) is also discouraged this year as are large groups of trick-or-treaters.
There are a number of safe Halloween activities being planned on Whidbey Island – check out the story on page 14. Health officials have also offered some suggestions for how to create a fun Halloween celebration at home:
– Have a scavenger hunt. Dress up and hide candy or other treats throughout the house or around the yard.
– Host an online costume or pumpkin carving contest.
– Have a Halloween movie marathon with household members.