Malmstrom raises health level, implements mask rule due to COVID-19 case increase

Malmstrom Air Force Base officials have raised their health protection condition from Alpha to Bravo and implemented a mask mandate for all personnel, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors, effective Sept. 7.

The base made the change based on the increase in COVID-19 cases statewide and in Cascade County,

On Sept. 7, the county added 116 new cases, according to the state dashboard, which includes weekend cases. That brings the county’s total to 11,393 cumulative cases and of those, 895 are currently active, according to the state date.

“Raising the HPCON level to Bravo aligns base posture and efforts with those of local, state and national health agencies regarding COVID-19. HPCON B measures address a moderate health threat to base personnel due to a heightened exposure risk. The personal measures include avoiding high-risk areas and, if exposed, self-isolation,” according to a base release. “All measures taken are to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among our base population and to ensure continuation of our no-fail mission.”

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The base went to Bravo in March 2020 and shortly thereafter, raised the level to Charlie. It went back down to Bravo in August 2020 and had returned to Alpha in May 2021.

“Our experience and our medical experts tell us that these health measures are the best way to maintain mission readiness by ensuring the availability of our personnel,” Col. Anita A. Feugate Opperman, 341st Missile Wing commander, said in a release. “We are continuing to monitor the data as it evolves, both locally and on base, so that we can make informed decisions that safeguard the health of our service members and their families.”

COVID cases continuing to rise in Cascade County

In July, the U.S. Department of Defense had issued guidance requiring masks indoors on all DoD bases, installations and facilities of high transmission.

At the time, Cascade County was considered an area of high transmission, but base officials had been granted an exception to the rule since the 341st Medical Group has recommended the base be considered an area of moderate transmission based on the number of cases then associated with the base.

Malmstrom lowers COVID health response level

In late August, officials at Malmstrom Air Force Base began administering the Pfizer vaccine to personnel, following the new Defense Department guidance mandating the FDA-approved vaccine.

The Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin issued the mandate on Aug 24, following the FDA’s formal licensure of the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23, according to a Malmstrom release.

County COVID cases, positivity rate remain steady, elevated

The DoD mandate requires vaccination for all service members who have not already received the vaccine.