Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Gutierrez, a Fort Jackson drill sergeant, takes the temperature of 1st Sgt. Timothy Kotchian of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, at Gate 2 on March 24. Temperatures and questioning are heightened security measures at Fort Jackson to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Leader
Fort Jackson leadership continues to emphasize to the community to practice social distancing measures to help ensure the safety of the post’s Soldiers, trainees and the civilian workforce after two Soldiers were the post’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“I continue to ask that each of you do your part to help prevent the spread,” said U.S. Army Training and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr. “Continue practicing good hygiene. Don’t gather in large groups or meetings and practice social distancing.”
Beagle reinforced the messaging during a video address to the installation as he announced the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Fort Jackson. One is a trainee with 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, and the other is an officer attending the Adjutant General Basic Officer Leader Course. The post confirmed two other cases of COVID-19 March 25 found as a result of contact tracing.
All are in isolation and receiving necessary medical care. They will not return to duty until medically cleared. All the areas they visited are being sanitized and the Fort Jackson public health team is working nonstop to identify anyone else who may have been exposed.
“Like I have said before, it’s not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Beagle said.
Fort Jackson also implemented temperature checks and COVID-19 screening at access control points and restricted gate access as well.
Fort Jackson and Columbia have canceled and suspended many events and activities in the wake of COVID-19 creating challenges for families and young people at home during the day to find creative ways to stay entertained.
Whatever ways people find to stay active, entertained and engaged in their personal safety, Beagle said, “please stay safe.”
The ways to stay safe are to change behaviors, habits and attitudes while practicing social distancing.
“Social Distancing as I have stated is an individual, unit and installation responsibility,” Beagle wrote in a letter to the Fort Jackson community March 23.
U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams warned communities during a March 23 Today Show interview to take coronavirus serious. As COVID-19 continues to spread, Adams urged all to follow social distancing precautions.
Columbia, South Carolina and Fort Jackson are no different as the battle to keep communities safe continues.
A curfew has been implemented in Columbia, restricting the number of people outside of their homes from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Violators can be fined $500 or spend up to 30 days in jail. S.C. Governor Henry McMaster discouraged gatherings of groups of 3 or more people during a speech March 23.
City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said, “If we don’t see social distancing norms become more real, we’re going to have a real issue going forward.”
“We have a lot of people doing the right thing,” Adams said. “But we are finding out a lot of people think, ‘this can’t happen to them.’ Everyone needs to take the right steps, right now.”
“Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. We need you to understand that you may be spreading it to someone else or you could be getting it from somebody else,” Adams said. “Please, stay at home.”
For more information about the installation’s response to COVID-19 and a list of Fort Jackson hour changes and closures, please visit home.army.mil/jackson.