More than four fifths of active-duty Air Force bases in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, are dealing with at least one case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in their community, according to an analysis by Task & Purpose.
Of the 69 major active-duty Air Force installations in the United States — including 10 recently assigned to the Space Force and the U.S. Air Force Academy and excluding Air National Guard and Reserve component bases — 56 have reported at least one case of COVID-19 among an active-duty airman, a spouse or dependent, or a civilian employee.
When queried for base-level data, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanak told Task & Purpose that the service keeps aggregate numbers of COVID-19 cases but does not track positives on an installation-by-installation basis.
“Each unit reports up through their chain of command to the Air Force which reports aggregate numbers to OSD,” she said.
This analysis was conducted using both public announcements from individual bases and confirmations from base officials provided to local media. However, publicly-confirmed numbers often do not accurately reflect the true number of cases at each individual base.
But while Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada had only publicly confirmed 7 positive cases as of March 22, base commander Col. Cavan Craddock told personnel in an email obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on April 3 that 32 people had tested positive for the virus.
In late March, the Defense Department ordered both individual bases and combatant commands to start withholding positive COVID-19 case numbers in the name of operational security.
“As we continue to grapple with the novel nature of COVID-19, we are constantly assessing and adapting not only how we respond to combatting the virus, but also how we share critical public health information with our communities,” Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement at the time.
As of Monday, the Air Force had reported 288 COVID-19 cases in the ranks.
The entire Defense Department, including the Air Force, is currently operating at Health Protection Condition-Charlie in response to the rapid spread of the virus among military personnel.
The spread of COVID-19 across the force has prompted the leaders of each major Air Force command to implement a “reset” at the behest of Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein designed to protect essential missions from the effects of the pandemic.
“There are all kinds of individual decisions that are associated with that bigger decision,” Goldfein told Defense News recently. “So the reset I’m talking about is a broader reset across the Air Force to make sure that we keep our mission up and operating.”