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Officials confirm Sheppard's first positive COVID-19 case

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 Graphic. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Public Health officials here notified Sheppard AFB leadership of the installation’s first confirmed case of Coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The first case is travel related and involves a member of the 80th Flying Training Wing, home to the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program. It is the ninth confirmed case in Wichita County, where Sheppard is located.

Col. Kenyon Bell, Sheppard AFB and 82nd Training Wing commander, and 80th FTW Commander Col. Russell Driggers addressed the confirmed case during a Facebook Live event on March 25, 2020.

“The good news here is that everyone involved did the right thing,” Bell said. “Because of that, our medical experts believe the risk of further spread from this case is low. That’s a reminder for all of us to follow the proper protocols. If you’re sick, stay home and call your chain of command. If you have symptoms of respiratory illness, call ahead to the medical clinic before you go in for care. If you are asked to quarantine, please follow all the guidelines provided.”

Driggers said the Airman and his family traveled to Las Vegas before the March 20 stop movement order by the Department of Defense. The family returned by air to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, then drove directly home and contacted their chain of command before going to work or anywhere else.

The 80th FTW commander said “unit leadership leaned forward” and told the Airman to stay home and go into a quarantine status with him family.

The Airman began exhibiting mild symptoms of COVID-19 earlier this week and called the Sheppard Clinic.

“The clinic staff took all necessary precautions, the member received the needed treatment, including a COVID-19 test, and was sent home for isolation,” he said. “The Airman’s family also remains in quarantine status.”

Driggers applauded the support of the 82nd TRW, specifically the 82nd Mission Support Group and the 82nd Medical Group, both of which are essential to the flying training mission. He also praised the men and women of the 80th FTW and ENJJPT for continue their mission while adhering to protective and preventive guidelines.

“We have put in place a number of initiatives to increase social distancing, focus on hand and face hygiene, and keep our workplaces clean and disinfected,” he said. “Please continue to do those things, and please keep sending your suggestions and concerns up the chain of command. We’ll get through this. As long as we stick together we’ll kick COVID-19’s butt.”

Bell concluded the event by reminding viewers and Team Sheppard that “we are all in this together.” While the base’s first confirmed COVID-19 case has been “about the best scenario you could imagine,” this unprecedented public health pandemic is not over and there needs to be a continuous increased focus on the basics such as washing hands, practicing social distancing, suspending travel, staying home if sick, and cleaning and disinfecting common or shared objects and surfaces.

The 82nd TRW commander was direct when encouraging leadership at all level taking an active role to ensure the basics are accomplished.

“Now, it’s one thing for us to say it, and our medics to say it,” he said. “What really makes a difference is when our NCOs say it, our MTLs and instructors say it, our civilian supervisors say it. This is a time for bold, active, front-line leadership. We’re counting on you.”

Bell said Air Force and Air Education and Training Command leadership have been upfront about the service’s training mission – it is essential to the defense of the nation. He said he also understands that there are concerns because of the dense population of Sheppard AFB. He encouraged all to continue following Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, Air Force and Sheppard AFB guidelines to combat COVID-19.

For more local information, visit www.sheppard.af.mil/coronavirus/.

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