HILL AIR FORCE BASE — With positive COVID-19 cases surging in the counties surrounding Hill Air Force Base, the military installation has upped its pandemic response, but as of now some of its popular public facilities will remain open.
Last week, Col. Jenise Carroll issued a basewide memo detailing new novel coronavirus restrictions that will apply to the base’s entire 27,000-plus workforce. Carroll said the memo falls in line with Gov. Gary Herbert’s state of emergency declaration that was issued Nov. 8.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department reported 1,390 new cases of COVID-19 for the week ending Nov. 15. Overall, the department has reported 10,297 positive cases, with 42 deaths. The Davis County Health Department has reported 12,507 total cases with 54 deaths. Statewide, the Utah Department of Health says there have been 155,779 positive COVID-19 tests as of Monday, including 6,859 hospitalizations and 723 deaths.
In the memo, Carroll said all social gatherings on base are prohibited and all official Department of Defense meetings and formal unit trainings of more than 15 people must first be approved by her office. Formal physical fitness training has also been canceled for two weeks, according to the memo and, like the state if Utah, the federal installation has also issued a mask mandate.
As of now, the base’s popular Hill Aerospace Museum and chapel, which both sit outside Hill’s security gate and are open to the public, will remain open.
Carroll said the museum, considered a place of business, will remain open under its current COVID-19 contingency plan.
After temporarily closing in March to protect the health and safety of visitors amid the early stages of the pandemic, the museum reopened to the public on Aug. 5, albeit with adjusted operating hours, being open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The museum has developed reopening guidelines in line with recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hill leadership, the state of Utah and peer institutions across the country.
Carroll said chapel services will still be held, though they will be limited to 40 people or less. Informal religious services, like Bible study, are considered social gatherings, Carroll said, and won’t be allowed.
In October, Hill was selected as one of four bases across the country to take part in a large-scale testing study being completed by the DOD, which randomly tests military and eventually civilian personnel hoping to identify and contain pockets of the novel coronavirus.
The sprawling, 7,000-acre installation is Utah’s largest single-site employer and the Air Force’s second largest base by population. Between its government civilian, active-duty Air Force and military contractor workforce, Hill employs about 27,000 people, according to an annual Economic Impact Statement released by the base earlier this year.
During the initial weeks of the pandemic, a running tally of positive COVID-19 cases was made available on Hill’s website, but due to growing security concerns and in order to protect the nation’s combat readiness status, those numbers are no longer released to the public.
The Air Force releases aggregate numbers but does not specify at which installations the positive cases have occurred. According to the numbers released last week by the secretary of the Air Force, the service has had 17,571 total positive cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths as of Nov. 10. The positives include active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel, as well as dependents.