FORT IRWIN, Calif. — In his first Facebook Live Community Update, Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor announced modified COVID-19 policies for the National Training Center and Fort Irwin on May 5, relaxing many restrictions.
“Conditions are improving on Fort Irwin and the surrounding area in Southern California,” Taylor said.
During the update, Taylor released five, main COVID-19 policy changes for the installation that began being implemented on May 5. They include updating the overall vaccination policy, travel, mask use, facility use, and community and social events.
Taylor said he revised the one-page Yellow Hash report after receiving feedback from Fort Irwin commanders and medical professionals and said it will be updated monthly, as needed. The Yellow Hash document replaces the previous April General Order and Operation Order.
“The vaccine remains, for the time being, 100 percent voluntary pending a presidential decision,” Taylor said. “No soldier on this installation will be forced or incentivized to receive the vaccine or punished for failing to do so. Until the president directs otherwise, this is a personal choice.”
Taylor said that leaders also have an obligation to ensure every soldier is afforded the opportunity to make an informed decision to meet with a medical provider and to receive the vaccine if they’d desire.
“Every soldier assigned to Fort Irwin will receive shot one, or decline the vaccine, in a medic-approved risk notification form by May 30,” Taylor said. “This will allow us to manage the vaccine supply and make absolutely sure that every soldier has been afforded an opportunity to make an informed decision.”
Taylor said that due to the decreasing COVID-19 rates in the surrounding area, leaders have been able to re-evaluate the pass (time off) and travel policy.
“Effective today (May 5), all soldiers assigned to Fort Irwin are authorized to travel up to 250 miles from the installation within U.S. borders without a leave or pass,” Taylor said. “Travel outside of this radius requires an approved DA-31 (a request for leave/vacation).”
Taylor reiterated that masks are required at all times indoors, unless a soldier/employee is alone, in an enclosed office space or in a room with all vaccinated personnel. This aligns with recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Masks are also required outside unless the individual is conducting physical training (PT) or can maintain six-feet of physical distance.
Highly-anticipated, good news came about fitness centers on post.
“We’ve expanded the capacity of both the Box Gym and Memorial Fitness to 50 percent,” Taylor said. “We’ve eliminated the requirement to close every 90-minutes for cleaning, expanded authorized users to include all soldiers, family members, DA civilians and retirees.”
Additionally, restaurants, dining facilities, Community Centers and religious gatherings can also operate at 50 percent capacity.
Another big announcement— on May 24, Freedom Fitness gym will open to vaccinated personnel only. Beneficiaries can bring their CDC vaccination card or a printout of their shot record from MHS Genesis to the front desk and get their names added to the database at Freedom Fitness. Masks will not be required at Freedom Fitness.
Lastly, Taylor announced a relaxation on social event restrictions.
“The last 15 months of the pandemic have frayed the social and community ties that make the Army a special place to live, work and serve,” he said. “We must get back to the business of restoring and building these ties. For this reason, I’m authorizing indoor social gatherings with mask wear at 50 percent capacity. Outdoor gatherings above 250 will require my approval and residents in privatized housing are authorized up to ten guests inside the home or 25 guests outside of the home.”
Taylor said these policies are meant to be as permissive as possible, while still maintaining the appropriate safeguards.
“These updated policies are due to improving conditions in our surrounding community and your continued vigilance is appreciated in following these safeguards,” he said.
You can find the full Yellow Hash report on the main NTC website at home.army.mil/irwin.
The next Live Community Update with the Commanding General, including the Garrison and Weed Army Community Hospital command teams will be June 2.