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Kirtland pauses reopening due to surge in COVID-19 cases

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kirtland Air Force Base may roll back reopenings if COVID-19 cases continue to rise there.

Installation commander Col. David Miller said during a town hall meeting that numbers following the Fourth of July weekend would be evaluated to determine the next step for the base, which paused its five-phase reopening because of a spike in cases.

It is still in the third phase, with a goal of bringing back 75% of the workforce that has been teleworking. Retirees are still allowed access to the commissary, the base exchange and shoppette on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Services on the base were gradually reopening, but are now in a holding pattern.

And Miller said it is possible the base could return to phase two. During that phase, nonessential employees worked from home and retirees were restricted from using most base facilities.

The base had planned to move in two-week increments toward reopening.

Miller said the installation’s numbers improved last week, but that followed “a significant spike” in the two previous weeks.

He said the number of cases in that 14-day period “exceeds the number in the last four months.”

The surge caused the base to raise its health threat level to HPCON Charlie, the level the installation was at when restrictions were first put into place.

“We had gone for three weeks with no cases on base,” Miller said. “… At the same time, the city was opening up and the base was opening up.”

Personnel may have had “corona fatigue” after weeks of wearing masks and taking the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We did revert back to our natural tendencies, back to doing what was comfortable,” Miller said. “So we got a little bit of a wake-up call in the last two weeks. Now we need to get back on track.”

For security reasons, the Department of Defense no longer allows military bases to reveal the number of their COVID-19 cases. Kirtland’s cases are included in the New Mexico Department of Health numbers and U.S. Air Force numbers.

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