Following JBER, Eielson Air Force Base restricts interactions off-base due to COVID

Two f-35 fighter jets are parked in front of a beige aircraft control tower
Two F-35s, with an F-16 parked in the middle, at Eielson Air Force Base on April 21, 2020. (Sean Martin/354th Fighter Wing)

Eielson Air Force Base in Interior Alaska has increased its COVID-19 precautions after Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s commander declared a public health emergency on Friday due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

An updated command directive published Monday limits on-base gatherings and restricts interactions with the off-base community, including forbidding in-person dining and patronizing bars. Takeout is acceptable, with masks.

“The 354th Fighter Wing Commander has directed a Health-Protection Condition Bravo, due to the increased community COVID-19 transmission rate,” said Col. David Berkland, who heads up Eielson’s main fighter wing.

RELATED: JBER declares public health emergency amid COVID surge

Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, who commands JBER and its 673rd Air Base Wing, said in statement released Friday that the emergency declaration reflects the “continued reality” of sustained, community transmission of COVID-19.

JBER officials are urging service members to avoid places that don’t require masking and to maintain social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. According to the statement, if the situation at JBER worsens, commanders will take additional measures to protect military personnel, possibly including restricting their access to off-base establishments.

Commanders at the two Army installations in the Interior have not elevated their health protection condition levels — at least, not yet.

Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker said post officials will require personnel to continue using the precautions that the post had established months ago.

“We are not increasing the health protection condition at this time, though the garrison leadership is monitoring the situation and may adjust if necessary,” she said. “We are maintaining the mask requirement for all indoor spaces. And then for outdoor spaces, if you cannot maintain 6 feet of separation, you do have to wear a mask.”

A Fort Greely spokesperson said Monday that post also hasn’t elevated its health protection condition level.

Vaccinations against the virus are required for military members, under an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month. But different branches have different deadlines. For the Air Force, the deadline is Nov. 2, and for the Army, it’s Dec. 15.

Alaska Public Media’s Julia O’Malley and Casey Grove contributed to this report.

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Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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