File photo from 19 Wing Comox.

Minimal footprint at 19 Wing Comox during COVID-19 pandemic

Workforce at the air force base split into groups: critical task, essential task and routine task

19 Wing Comox is doing its part to curb the coronavirus pandemic by limiting access to personnel required for essential services.

Social activities have been cancelled and recreation facilities are closed. Core and administrative activities are being maintained to proceed with operations. Some members continue to work at the base while others will work elsewhere.

“The base is not closed right now,” said Col. Dany Poitras, Wing Commander at 19 Wing Comox. “We have enabled what we call our business contingency plan.”

Which splits the workforce into three groups: critical task, essential task and routine task.

“Depending on where you sit in the puzzle, you’re going to be either reporting to work, or working offsite, or via emails and teleconferencing.

“The mandate has not changed,” Poitras added. “When it comes to the posture that we have for search and rescue, it has not changed, and it’s the same thing for the other fleets. So the only thing is, we are reducing the print on the wing to minimize the risk.”

Aside from one or two stragglers, all deployed troops have returned to 19 Wing in recent weeks. Those who were symptomatic were placed in isolation and tested.

“So far, all the tests were negative,” Poitras said. “We’ve been careful about following that protocol. The self-monitoring for us, we’ve been doing for weeks now.”

He said the protocol is in line with that of professional health authorities.

“As a matter of fact, we work with them hand to hand. My medical folks on the wing talk to the provincial health folks on a daily basis. At the end of the day, our core objective here is to make sure that our members and families are safe so we can deliver the mission, should the Government of Canada ask us to do more. That’s really the focus is to preserve the force, and to make sure we’re all part of the solution. The only way you’re going to win that battle is to acknowledge that we have a collective responsibility.”

There has also been a focus on educating troops about hand-washing and other hygienic practices.

“This thing is so dynamic right now, directions are being adapted pretty much every week,” Poitras said. “We’re minimizing the traveling to the bare minimum right now, essentially for the core task.”

19 Wing is in daily contact with Comox Valley municipalities, the regional district and the K’ómoks First Nation.

“We’re really in line in terms of what everybody’s doing, and we are really consistent,” Poitras said. “The base is closed to visitors. It’s our way of making sure that we don’t get exposed to the virus.”

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