WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
When COVID-19 first hit the Johnson County area in March 2020, Whiteman Air Force Base took several steps to ensure the safety of Airmen and their families.
As the coronavirus continues to impact daily life for many, the 509th Force Support Squadron with the advisement of 509th Medical Group, have developed ways to support Airmen’s morale while keeping them safe.
The Whiteman AFB Fitness Center staff has taken several precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of patrons.
Airmen can still participate in monthly classes, running clinics, and sign out equipment to use within small groups. In addition, after a short delay, the fitness center now offers intramural sports. Intramural participants will notice small changes for participant, such as temperature checks and health questionnaires, designed to keep players safe.
“Utilizing CDC guidelines in conjunction with local Public Health guidance, we have rearranged the cardio and weight room equipment to allow 6’ of space between patrons using the gym equipment. The Fitness Center Staff also continuously cleans and sanitizes commonly used items and surfaces,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jacob Casey, 509th FSS sustainment services superintendent.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, the Fitness Center staff also enforces proper mask wear and promotes heightened hygiene practices. There is a maximum capacity inside the Fitness Center of 80 people, to reduce overcrowding during peak hours.
The Fitness Center’s operational guidelines were made through collaboration with the 509th Medical Group Public Health office, and will not only help mitigate COVID, but also help ease the impact of the upcoming cold and flu season.
“Public Health receives the latest information passed down from the Air Force and CDC and we try to push out the latest guidelines in a timely manner,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Tanviben Patel, 509th MDG Public Health officer in charge. “We want to ensure that all precautions are being made and offer recommendations to ensure the safety of everyone on base.”
One of the more innovative measures the Fitness Center has introduced in coordination with Public Health is the ID scan.
“Previously, members signed a tracking log upon entering to assist Public Health with contact tracing and to ensure 100% accountability,” said Casey. “Now, the Fitness Center’s adjusted 24/7 access system allows members access to the facility anytime by swiping their DoD/Access ID. This eliminates the need to touch common items and areas when they arrive.”
While the 509th FSS is doing everything they can to ensure facilities like the Fitness Center remain open, personal responsibility also plays a factor in ensuring services remain available to Airmen.
“We all have to do our part to make smart decisions to get through these unprecedented times,” said Patel. “The next several months will be very important as we get into the cold and flu season. As long as we all do our part and make smart decisions, we can continue the Global Strike mission here at Whiteman AFB.”
According to Public Health, members who do not follow the COVID mitigation guidelines of social distancing and mask use can impact the work center in many ways. One case, or even suspected exposure, can result in individuals being put in quarantine, which directly impacts the mission by taking Airmen out of their work centers and putting stress on the shop and overall the mission.
“The overall safety for our Airmen and families is the number one priority,” said Casey. “The Force Support Squadron would like to provide as many safe opportunities as we can and we determine what is doable through communication with Wing Leadership and Public Health recommendations.”
Airmen and their families who choose to participate in activities at the Fitness Center can further protect themselves by practicing good personal hygiene, wearing a mask properly, and wiping down the equipment both before and after each use with the provided gym wipes.