GREAT FALLS — Cascade County reported its largest one-day total of COVID-19 cases on Friday, July 24, with 20 new cases. Seventeen of those cases are people between the ages of 20 and 39. There has been a cumulative total of 101 confirmed cases in Cascade County; of those, 42 have recovered, 57 are currently active, and two have died. The City-County Health Department in Great Falls says that the new cases are attributed to community spread or have been found through contact tracing, and that as in previous cases, these individuals have been isolated and contact investigations are underway.
MTN News has confirmed that COVID-19 cases at Malmstrom AFB are included in Cascade County totals; however, due to security concerns, military installations do not release base-specific numbers publicly.
Colonel Jennifer Reeves, commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, explained that case numbers are not made public due to Department of Defense policy, which prohibits them from revealing information that could potentially threaten the safety of the base or its members. "It's not that we're trying to hide the truth, but the release of the cumulative numbers could indicate an opportunity for an adversary to exploit a potential vulnerability," she said.
Instead, the base reports their case numbers to the U.S. Air Force and Cascade City-County Health Department. “We must maintain our ability and readiness to execute our mission at any time,” Col. Reeves said.
Yesterday (July 23), officials at Malmstrom announced that all active-duty airmen are - until further notice - now prohibited from entering restaurants, bars, casinos, and other places where food and beverages are consumed. Airmen are permitted to briefly enter such establishments to pick up to-go orders.
Malmstrom announced on Monday, July 20th, that it raised its Health Protection Condition (HPCON) from Bravo to Charlie. The move to Charlie indicates a threat that requires stricter guidelines for base personnel and visitors to prevent the spread of the virus.
HPCON Charlie includes the following measures:
- Masks must be worn by all individuals aged 5 or older when inside all indoor facilities on and off base. The only exceptions are in homes, the base fitness center, and DFAC when actively eating or drinking.
- The Visitor’s Control Center (VCC) at the main gate will be open by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 731-2853 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. When the VCC is closed, the gate guards will write a temporary pass that will need to be renewed the next day.
- The Fitness Center will be reconfiguring its layout to meet physical distancing standards.
- Indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people or less. Masks are required for any outdoor events with 50 people or more and social distancing will still be required.
- Other measures and closures are being considered, but have not been implemented yet.
"Force health protection is our top priority, and we will continue to ensure that all of Team Malmstrom have the most up-to-date information on appropriate measures to prevent the potential spread of the virus,” said Reeves.
The US Air Force released the following service-wide information regarding COVID-19 several days ago: