A drive through the grounds of the Rock Island Arsenal early Thursday afternoon revealed many empty parking lots.
Normally, they would be full with the cars of the approximately 6,500 workers on the island.
But due to COVID-19, and the effort to stop it, things have changed.
The U.S. Army directed all Army installations, including the Rock Island Arsenal, to change to Health Protection Condition C, or Charlie, Wednesday to help control the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
What it means is that all non-essential personnel will not come to work on the island for the time being. Col. Stephen Marr, U.S. Army Garrison commander at the Rock Island Arsenal estimated at least half of the normal amount of employees were not present Thursday.
“Right now we are on mission-essential only status,” Marr, said Thursday. “So those personnel who are essential to performing very specific missions and functions here on the Arsenal are the only ones allowed on the Arsenal. Everybody else has been directed to remain at home.”
In its release, the Arsenal defined essential personnel as an employee who performs tasks that require his or her physical presence in the work area.
It also noted that all other service members and Department of the Army civilians will telework or will be placed on leave using annual, sick, administrative or weather/safety leave. Contractor access is reduced to minimal presence to support essential functions only.
The goal is to “preserve operational readiness,” Marr said. There are many various commands or organizations on the island who are subordinate to a wide variety of different major Army commands than answer to the chief of Staff or Secretary of the Army. “So when the department issues an order, each one of those will implement that guidance a little bit differently,” he said.
Marr said all groups are “maximizing telework...predominantly from home, and giving those that can do their work from home, the opportunity to do that.”
The Arsenal was already practicing things like social distancing, not having more than 10 people in any one group, hand-washing and personal hygiene, and other directives issued by Army health organizations and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other changes as a result of elevating the HPCON to C include:
Garrison services: The Garrison will conduct basic base operations requirements to maintain installation infrastructure and essential functions (e.g. water production, utilities distribution, and emergency service orders) only. All non-emergency service orders and job orders are temporarily suspended. All projects are put on hold.
Child care will only be provided for key and essential families only, in accordance with priorities and as space is available.
The Commissary and Post Exchange remain operational to support the limited presence on the island. Rock Island National Cemetery is closed to visitors due to installation access restrictions, and interments at the RINC are coordinated on a case-by-case basis.
The Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic remains operational to support its current patrons to include retirees, but this will be the only location on island accessible to retirees and non-key and essential personnel.
Specific to individual commands are the following groups: First Army, Army Sustainment Command and Joint Munitions Command, Army Contracting Command – Rock Island, Joint Manufacturing Technology Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- Rock Island District and Combat Capabilities Development Command – Armaments and Chemical Biological Centers and Army and Joint Reserve and National Guard Centers.
JMTC production lines have slowed down significantly because the amount of people allowed on each line is limited to encourage social distancing, Marr said.
“On the Arsenal itself, we have cancelled or suspended all non-essential services,” Marr summarized. “Many of our facilities are closed.”
Marr said all the directives are from the Army and not related to the positive test for COVID-19 of an employee from Scott County that was announced Wednesday.
Things will be this way “until further notice,” Marr said. “We will continue to assess the situation.
“Our No.1 priority is our workforce,” he said. “It is our people that enable operational readiness.”
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