NORFOLK, Va. – Virginia is set to enter Phase Three of reopening this Wednesday, but Navy Sailors serving in Hampton Roads are being reminded that there are different restrictions in place for them when it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19.
All Sailors in the region are currently under Health Protection Condition Charlie Minus (HPCON C-) conditions as set by U.S. Fleet Forces / U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command Admiral Chris Grady back on March 20th.
Under HPCON C-, Sailors are expected to limit stops outside of work to “essential businesses” including food, medical, gas, and childcare. Visiting off-installation swimming pools, gyms, dine-in restaurants, and non-essential commercial retail is all prohibited.
Also off-limits: public beaches, concerts, taking part in team or organized sports and going to any event designed to promote large gatherings.
Sailors are allowed to get take-out from restaurants under HPCON C-.
Reminder issued, but conditions the same
U.S. Fleet Forces Command tells News 3 that guidance was issued last Tuesday, but the conditions in that guidance have not changed since the March 20th order. Rather, they are reminding Sailors of their obligations and are strongly encouraging Department of Defense civilians, contractors, and family members to adhere to the guidance “to minimize the risk of infecting our Force.”
Following the guidance, Navy commands and installations across Hampton Roads have taken to social media in recent days to reinforce the HPCON C- measures.
The message last week sent by Fleet Forces to commands states that “in some localities, the easing of community restrictions is not aligned with the Navy imperative to maintain COVID infection as low as achievable across the Force,” adding that the Navy has an obligation to man and take ships to sea sometimes on short notice and that “asymptomatic spread is a reality and one misstep opens a potential attack vector for this virus.”
It also noted that all commanders were expected to make sure every Sailor had a complete understanding “of the environment they were operating in and the guidance they are operating under.” To that end, Sailors are signing what is known as a “page 13” to document training on the requirements has been carried out and acknowledged.
Briefings on the HPCON C- conditions were required to be completed by today.
Moving to loosen restrictions
The Navy says while they continue to work with state and local leaders, the conditions-based criteria for changing the Health Protection Condition is separate from any decisions being made by Virginia leaders.
In order for an installation to request looser restrictions, which would move from Charlie Minus to Bravo, three sets of criteria have to bet met.
There must be a downward trajectory in influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like illness cases reported for the previous two weeks, documented COVID-19 cases or positive cases as a percent of total tests must be down for the previous two weeks, and Military Treatment Facilities or local hospitals must have the capacity to treat “all patients without crisis care” while having a COVID-19 testing program in place.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Fleet Forces tells News 3 that all installations in Hampton Roads are still operating under HPCON C-, but 14 installations nationwide have met the criteria and have moved to HPCON B. Other installations are expected to request transitions to HPCON B later this week based on the criteria.
Impact on PCS moves
A "stop-movement" order in March restricted travel for service members and their families, which kept many Sailors from completing permanent change of duty station or PCS moves. It created a backlog of more than 42,000 Sailors and families needing to carry out a PCS move.
Last week, the Navy talked to News 3 about a priority approach they are taking to get Sailors moving.
Under HPCON C-, PCS moves are being authorized on a case-by-case basis. It involves a waiver approval by the first Flag officer in a Sailor’s chain of command and coordination between Navy Personnel Command and the old and new commands.
Personal leave and liberty requests out of the area, not related to PCS, are also being considered on a case-by-case basis.