From left, Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander; Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander; and Col. Matthew Mapes, Fort Drum Medical Department Activity commander, share the latest information on COVID-19 with audience members during a town hall meeting Sept. 9. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum senior leaders host town hall meeting to discuss COVID vaccines, school reopenings
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 10, 2021) – Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) leaders hosted a town hall Sept. 9 to discuss the latest on COVID-19 and to answer questions from viewers watching the live stream.
Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, said that the mandatory military vaccination process, per the Secretary of Defense mandate, began Sept. 6 at Fort Drum. All unvaccinated Soldiers and those who need their second shot are directed to go, by unit, to the mass vaccination site on post.
Soldiers are briefed on the mandatory vaccination policy, and then they either receive the inoculation or explain why they are seeking a medical or religious exception. If a Soldier declines the vaccination, that information is documented.
“The key thing there is making sure we are treating everybody with a high level of dignity and respect,” Beagle said. “The key for us right now is accountability.”
To date, Beagle said that roughly 78 percent of Soldiers within the division have been vaccinated.
Col. Matthew Mapes, Fort Drum Medical Department Activity commander, said that it is important for people to have the facts about vaccines.
He said that when the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval of the Pfizer vaccination on Aug. 23, it came with a name change. Comirnaty is the same as the Pfizer vaccine, but it combines the words COVID-19 immunity and mRNA.
In accordance to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Drum MEDDAC is currently providing third doses to moderate-to-severe immunocompromised beneficiaries.
For everyone else, the vaccine booster is awaiting approval as early as next week from the Food and Drug Administration.
“The goal is to offer boosters later this fall, and those will occur at the eight-month mark after receiving your second dose,” he said.
Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander, said that Fort Drum children returned to the classroom this week, and that all the safety protocols are being enforced in schools and on buses.
“Overall, we continue to dialogue with all of our schools off post, and we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis as we remain committed to keeping our community safe,” he said.
At the Community Information Exchange on Sept. 8, Wendy O’Sullivan, Fort Drum school liaison officer, said school districts received guidance in August from New York State Education Department to follow CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance in allowing children to return to full-time, in-person classroom learning with layered prevention strategies in place. The school districts were advised to work with state and local health departments throughout the school year to monitor COVID-19 community spread and adjust safety procedures accordingly.
“Districts are using a layered approach for health and safety, to include cleaning, masking, social distancing, ventilation and disinfecting,” she said. “The districts’ communication tools include Parent Square, virtual forums, calls, websites with COVID-19 pages listing the district masking guidelines, frequently asked questions, the CDC flowchart on what to do if the student becomes sick, the New York State Health and Safety Guide, and homeschooling information.”
She said that students are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, while in school and inside buses, but there are masking breaks during the school day.
“Seating charts for buses, cafeterias and classes allow for easier contact tracing, so please help explain to your children, who have some frustrations with the seating charts, the need for those,” O’Sullivan said.
She added that remote learning plans are in place in case a school needs to close, and that parents can use the communication tools available to stay informed.
The live stream of the town hall is available at www.facebook.com/drum.10thmountain.