NTC/Fort Irwin’s COVID-19 Response Brig. Gen. Lesperance says preventing the spread is a team effort

COVID-19 precautions forced post restaurants to go to a take-out only status (Photos by David Dupree, NTC/Fort Irwin Garrison Public Affairs)
Commissary/DECA officials had to enforce purchase limits to help ensure customers received needed items.

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The quick response to COVID-19 concerns from the National Training Center and Fort Irwin leadership, led to many changes across the installation. As CDC and DOD guidance trickled down, all restaurants on post followed a “Grab and Go” model, as all dine-in services were suspended at HPCON level Bravo.

On March 25, once the HPCON level was raised across Army installations to Charlie, the Family and MWR also closed all of their facilities, including gyms, Samuel Adams and Shockwave. The Child Development Center remained open for mission-essential families. Dining facilities #1 and #2 also went to carry out only at this time.

“This is about reducing your individual exposure or the fact that you might actually be infected right now but not be symptomatic and be a spreader of this virus on the installation, and this is all about reducing and flattening the infection curve nationally,” NTC’s Commanding Brig. Gen. David Lesperance said.

Hand washing stations were installed at many businesses to help promote cleanliness before entering.

Social distancing of six feet or more was also enforced across the installation, including at the Commissary, Post Exchange, Post Office and even in open spaces outside. Signs were posted throughout buildings to help make sure soldiers and the community were aware of the changes.

All Sunday Chapel services transitioned to digital, online and broadcast only, beginning March 22. Nine o’clock Catholic Masses can now be viewed on TV channel EWTN and streamed online at ewtn.com the 11a.m. Protestant services have been put on the “Fort Irwin Chapel” Facebook page. The sanctuary was still open on weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for individual prayer and meditation.

“This is about reducing the infection rate by decreasing the amount of contact we have with other people, so that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Lesperance said. “This is going to take a lot of individual discipline and I ask all of us to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem moving forward with this.”

Many patrons lined up well before the Commissary opened for their shot at limited items.

Commissary: Purchase limitations began at the Commissary on March 14, at first only limiting cleaning agents and toilet paper to two per person. The next day, those limit items were increased to include purchases like sugar, flour and rice. On March 26, a limit was put on all products in the store, for two or less items per transaction, per family, per day. There are exceptions for WIC customers.

The Commissary receives shipments five times a week (not on Wednesdays or Sundays), so the Commissary leadership reminded customers that there are multiple opportunities to get a product if a product was not available at any time.

On March 19, another change came for the Commissary. Early Bird hours were suspended to allow the store more time to clean and re-stock. The store went to operational hours of 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. from Mondays through Fridays; and 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekends.

Post Exchange (PX): The Main Store Post Exchange (PX) began making changes to their store on Friday, March 13th. They began to put limits on some of their products. By the following week, both the PX and Commissary, along with several other businesses, installed handwashing stations in front of their store for patrons to use before they entered. Cleaning wipes were also available for customers to wipe down carts and items.

Customers didn’t seem to have a problem with the additional precautions for entering.

“It’s very important for us to wash our hands anytime we leave the house or going anyplace and if I could do my part and maybe reduce my risk from catching the virus,  I will continue to wash my hands,” Jessica Fedorisin said. “We all just want this to end.”