Col. Jeffery Lucas, left, Fort Drum garrison commander, and Col. Jason Williams, 10th Mountain Division (LI) chief of staff, field questions on the installation’s COVID-19 safety measures during a virtual town hall meeting July 16 on the U.S. Army Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division Facebook page. (Screenshot)
Fort Drum leaders respond to questions on latest COVID-19 safety measures
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (July 16, 2020) – After more than 130 days of living with COVID-19 and the precautions and safety measures that go with it, senior leaders at Fort Drum are asking community members not to succumb to pandemic fatigue.
During a virtual town hall on July 16, Col. Jason Williams, 10th Mountain Division (LI) chief of staff, said it remains vital that everyone remains vigilant.
“We do believe that if everyone will accept the discipline that we ask of everyone – to wear your mask, wash your hands and maintain social distancing, avoid large crowds – if everyone would do that, we do believe we can continue to protect the force and the community,” he said.
Col. Jeffery Lucas, Fort Drum garrison commander, said that to speak of the pandemic in the past tense is to ignore what is currently forcing major parts of the country to rethink their safety measures.
“We are not through this fight just yet,” he said. “We know how we can help mitigate the spread of the virus. What it requires from each of us is an absolute, great deal of individual responsibility. And we have to trust that the thing that I can’t see – which is the absence of the spread of the virus – that my actions are working, but I have to remain vigilant.”
Two days after the release of General Order 1E – an update to the installation’s COVID-19 safety measures – the forum allowed senior leaders to respond to questions raised online from the Fort Drum community.
Lucas said that those counties are deemed off-limits because they are currently experiencing a level of infection rate that would put community members of risk.
Traveling outside the 350-mile travel radius requires approval (DA-31) at the O-3 level (captain) in a Soldier’s chain of command. Travel to restricted areas would need approval at the O-6 (colonel) level. Travelers may drive through off-limit areas – without stops – to get to an approved location within the 350-mile radius.
Williams said that if approved to travel outside the radius or in restricted areas, the Soldier (and household) would have to quarantine for 14 days upon return.
Lucas added that if a Soldier is quarantined at home (Level 1 quarantine), it should be treated as if the whole household is under quarantine.
Under GO1E, Soldiers are not authorized to use commercial air, train, bus or other public transportation, unless approved by an O-3 commander on their COVID counseling form.
While the Trusted Traveler program remains suspended, only DoD ID cardholders or Fort Drum local access badge holders can enter the installation. An exception to policy (ETP) request must be approved by an O-5 or GS equivalent in a Soldier’s chain of command. The garrison commander is the approval authority for all other visitor requests.
“It’s important that we know who is coming on the installation at any given time,” Lucas said. “Quite frankly, we kept approval at the O-5 level because it’s a good requisite level of authority to make those requests, but again, it’s our control mechanism to ensure we know who is accessing the installation.”
For details on gate access, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/public-affairs/coronavirus-update.
Lucas clarified that family and friends who live within the travel radius and in an approved county can visit their Soldiers with sponsorship approval from the chain of command.
Soldiers also are reminded that they are prohibited from locally meeting visitors who live outside the 350-mile radius or in any of the off-limit areas, unless approved by the first O-3 in their chain of command.
The question about when fitness facilities will open up to patrons other than service members has been a pressing one for some people ever since the gyms closed. Lucas said that as long as the pandemic persists, opening the facilities to allow greater numbers inside would only increase risk.
The Jefferson County Public Health Service recently reported a cluster of COVID-19 cases that are linked to social events over the past 10 days in communities along the St. Lawrence River. As of July 15, there were 24 known cases in the county.
With an uptick in active COVID-19 cases, community members asked if there was a chance that Fort Drum would close, and how officials might respond to a surge.
“I would say, first, that the installation never did close,” Williams said. “We do not currently anticipate adding any additional mitigations, but I will say that, every day, we continue to assess the risk that is presented by COVID and the mitigation steps we are taking to limit that risk.”