JBLE conducts mass coronavirus testing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marcus M. Bullock
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base Langley-Eustis is conducting mass rapid oral fluid COVID-19 testing of roughly 2% of its population—approximately 7,800 joint, active duty personnel—over a three-day period, June 3 through 5.

The 633rd Medical Group, McDonald Army Health Center and the Air Combat Command Surgeon General’s office were chosen to pilot this novel oral swab coronavirus test from Curative Inc., anticipated to aid operational readiness while striving to protect service members during the pandemic.

“The installation was chosen for a multitude of reasons as we have a proven history of providing rapid response capability in support of DoD objectives,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Clint Ross, installation commander. “Our close proximity to other military installations and the lab evaluating the test results, overall population size, and supportive leadership made us a prime candidate.”

The new testing method sourced from Curative Inc., a swab of the inside of the patient’s mouth to gather oral fluids, is far less invasive than previous methods of COVID testing which require a cotton swab through the nasal passage.

“This testing method does not require a healthcare provider to administer the test itself,” said the command surgeon for ACC, Brig. Gen. Sharon Bannister said. “It’s a much simpler method that allows us to test a greater number of people in a shorter period of time while preserving our masks, glove, and gowns for patient care.”

Test results will be available to medical professionals within two to three days. Those tested will be able to check their personal results via their TRICARE patient portal system approximately seven days later.

“Think about the large number of people we send downrange, putting them on planes and living in tight quarters close to one another,” Bannister said. “This is a game changer for us and helps ensure our readiness by utilizing tests prior to deployment to minimize the risk of a large-scale outbreak downrange.”

Coordination through the 633rd MDG, MCAHC and ACC/SG was extensive and swift as medical staff was tasked with implementing this new program with approximately three days’ notice.

“Upon notification rapid planning and collaboration began across Langley and Fort Eustis and by Tuesday afternoon began processing personnel,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Polito III., clinical laboratory flight commander and JBLE project lead. “Our incredible teams demonstrated the ability to quickly scale and administer COVID-19 testing of a large military population to ensure health, safety and readiness of Airmen and Soldiers.”

JBLE’s efforts align with CDC testing recommendations for mass screening protocols and will also help the community understand the prevalence of asymptomatic cases in this sample population.

“We know there’s a certain percentage of people walking around showing no symptoms and possibly spreading the disease,” Bannister said. “If we can identify some of these asymptomatic positive cases, we can notify and test their close contacts to minimize the spread of COVID and further flatten the curve.”

The Department of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office and JBLE leadership, in coordination with the Defense Health Agency and DoD COVID-19 Task Force, are managing this effort.

“I’m extremely proud the Soldiers and Airmen of JBLE were able to execute on a tight timeline to support the Chairman’s efforts,” said Ross. “We’re all in. The lessons learned from the exercise will be a valuable operational readiness tool and help inform future testing capabilities.”

Additional pilot testing locations are in detailed planning for evaluation of future testing strategies within the DoD.

For the latest information on JBLE’s effort to flatten the curve, visit the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Facebook page or www.jble.af.mil/Coronavirus/.