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Nellis AFB declares public health emergency amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated April 3, 2020 - 7:59 pm

The Air Force on Friday declared a public health emergency at Nellis Air Force Base, saying in a statement that only essential personnel and people already living on base will be allowed to enter starting Monday.

While the public statement Friday did not state the declaration was in response to the spread of the coronavirus, base commander Col. Cavan Craddock told personnel in an email Thursday that 32 people on base in the northeast Las Vegas Valley had tested positive for COVID-19.

In the email, which was obtained Friday by the Review-Journal, Craddock wrote that 638 COVID-19 tests had been administered to service members on base and 520 of those came back negative for COVID-19. Results had not been received for the remainder of those tested, he said.

Friday’s statement from Nellis officials did not cite COVID-19 as the reason for the emergency delaration, saying only that the Air Force was empowering base leaders to bolster the base’s health care resources and give authorities wider latitude to limit people’s access to the base.

It said the base’s hospital, the Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center, will stay open for all personnel, including retirees, throughout the emergency.

Retirees will be able to access the base’s pharmacy through April 10, the statement said. But starting April 11, “only essential personnel and residents of the base will be granted access to the installation” and only essential base personnel and people already living on base will have access to the base’s commissary and base exchange.

The restrictions would be in place “until further notice,” the Air Force said, noting that officials would continue to monitor the coronavirus situation on the local and federal levels.

A Nellis spokesperson declined Friday to say whether the declaration was related to the coronavirus.

Nellis reported its first coronavirus case on March 19, announcing that a member of a NATO military force who visited Nellis during the Red Flag military exercises that month had tested positive for COVID-19.

About a half-dozen additional cases at the base have been reported since then, but the email from Craddock raised the total.

Members of the U.S. military, from new recruits to warship captains, have been affected by the pandemic. Branches have sealed off entire military installations. The Pentagon announced a military contractor died from the coronavirus on March 21. The Marine Corps reported positive cases among recruits. The Navy has called ships into ports as positive cases arise aboard vessels.

On Friday, the Navy was in the spotlight after military leaders removed the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt days after he penned a letter to the Pentagon asking for help as dozens sailors aboard the aircraft carrier began to test positive for COVID-19.

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