The leaders of each organization on Redstone Arsenal continue to rely on two numbers to drive their decisions on when or if workers will return – the daily number of new cases in Alabama and the daily number of new cases in the Arsenal’s 16-county area of interest.
More specifically, the decline in those numbers will determine when the installation progresses to the next phase of its recovery plan, according to Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey Smith.
To move to the next phase, leadership needs to see a 14-day decline in the number of cases. For example, on June 14, the state and the Arsenal’s area of interest had a peak number of new cases, 1,104 statewide and 229 in the 16 surrounding counties. Then the number of new cases continued to decline day after day until bottoming out on June 17, 390 and 112. Then the clock started over on June 18 when there was a spike of new cases reported, 882 and 186, respectively.
In a perfect world, leaders would be able to track the total number of cases per day, minus the total number of those who have recovered and end up with the total number of active cases in Alabama, Madison County, etc. But, Smith said that number is difficult to track, which makes it an unreliable measure to use when making decisions.
“I’ll tell you we’re in a position where if we see the virus continue to recede, I think we’ll all be in a good position,” he said during a virtual town hall Thursday. “I know that the ticker continues to go up across the nation, but I would remind everybody that about 60% of the 2.1 million people that have been infected by COVID are no longer infected. They’re on the road to recovery.”
Additionally, Smith said that for now, the Arsenal isn’t planning to increase the measures it currently has in place, in other words, take a step back from phase 1 of the recovery, at least not an installation-wide level. Still, he did say some of the tenants might implement their own stricter precautions like mandatory facemasks or alternating shifts to limit the number of workers who come into contact with one another.
“The idea is to go slow to go fast,” he said. “While you’ve watched the community around us get back to work, back to play, and try to get back to what was considered normal before COVID-19, what you’ve witnessed from the Arsenal is a very measured and conservative approach to returning the workforce to the Arsenal.”
The installation isn’t releasing the numbers of current or recovered COVID-19 patients, citing operational security, but Smith did say that most of Redstone employees who have tested positive for the virus didn’t catch it on post, because they have not been on the installation to catch it with a large portion of the daily population on telework or admin leave.
However, when someone tests positive for COVID-19 on post, it triggers a specified set of actions according to Smith that include contact tracing, testing and cleaning the suspected area.
“So while there are factors and we continue to see things go up,” he said, “there are other factors that communicate that we are getting better at treating the disease, that we’re getting better at preventing the disease and the ability to treat (the disease) and the risk to our lives for each of us is continuing to go down.”