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COVID-19 testing, surveillance continues at GFAFB

A female medical technician wears a protective face mask as she sits behind a grey laptop.

Master Sgt. Joy Sawe, 319th Medical Group Aerospace Medicine flight chief, checks in patients to be tested for COVID-19 on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 5, 2020. The 319th MDG is responsible for biweekly mass testing events, in addition to regularly scheduled daily tests. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

Two women in military uniform and face masks look at a patient as he checks in for an appointment.

Lt. Col. Janice Pecua, 319th Operational Medical Support Squadron commander, center, and Capt. Andrea Mayfield, 319 OMSS disease manager, left, check in a patient during a mass testing event on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 5, 2020. The 319th Reconnaissance Wing continues to prioritize surveillance and testing for COVID-19, requiring 1 percent of the base populous and 5 percent of dorm residents to test biweekly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

Woman donned with medical gown, protective face shield, respiratory mask and latex gloves takes the temperature of a patient sitting in front of her.

Airman Emma Swanson, 319th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, right, takes the temperature of Col. Cameron Pringle, 319th Reconnaissance Wing commander, during a mass testing event on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 5, 2020. The 319th Medical Group is responsible for testing 1 percent of the base populous during biweekly mass testing events like the one pictured, in addition to normal daily testing. (U.S. Air Force by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

Portrait of a woman in personal protective gear smiling.

Amn. Emma Swanson, 319th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, removes her personal protective gear in order to be tested for COVID-19 Aug. 5, 2020, following a base-wide mass testing event she assisted with on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Swanson lives in the dorms on base, which makes her part of the 5 percent of dorm-dwelling Airmen required to test biweekly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A woman in military uniform opens her mouth and sticks out her tongue as a medical technician wearing gloves, a face mask and protective gown swabs the back of her throat.

Airman 1st Class NaShira Reyes Lacan, 319th Medical Support Squadron logistics technician, receives a throat swab as part of a COVID-19 test on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 5, 2020. Reyes Lacan is one of more than 400 Airmen and family members who have been tested at the 319th MDG since the pandemic’s outbreak in early March. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A gloved hand holds a clear and orange biohazard bag near a box to be shipped later.

A COVID-19 test sample is packed into a box to be shipped out for testing on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 5, 2020. With the help of community partner and local hospital, Altru, the tests are shipped to a testing lab for final results. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

Man in flight suit looks at woman in medical protective gear as he talks.

Col. Cameron Pringle, 319th Reconnaissance Wing commander, left, acknowledges staff with the 319th Medical Group for their effort to complete biweekly base-wide mass COVID-19 testing, Aug. 5, 2020, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. In addition to frequent testing, the base community has also continued to be focused on enforcing social distancing standards and proper mask wear to prevent the virus from spreading. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

As of August 5, more than 400 Airmen and family members have tested for COVID-19, here. The biweekly goal is to test 1 percent of the base populous and 5 percent of dorm residents.

 

Testing and surveillance continues to remain a priority for the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, which in combination with proper mask wear, social distancing and teleworking where appropriate, has kept positive cases low in number.

 

Every other week, members of the 319th Medical Group don multiple layers of personal protective gear: a face mask and shield, hair net, gown and set of gloves, in order to assess patients and complete a throat swab for COVID-19 testing. The new testing method — swabbing the inside of the patient's mouth to gather oral fluids — is far less invasive than previous methods of COVID-19 testing which require inserting a cotton swab through the nasal passage.

 

“The value in doing testing like this, if nothing else, is peace of mind,” Master Sgt. Joy Sawe, 319th Medical Group flight chief, explained. “It’s reassuring to the community that we continue to do surveillance and testing every day, in addition to mass testing every two weeks.”

 

Though Grand Forks AFB and its surrounding area is smaller than most other bases, it remained imperative to Col. Cameron Pringle, 319th Reconnaissance Wing commander, to slow the spread of the virus and be as proactive as possible.

 

“We’ve learned a lot since March, one of the lessons being that there’s a certain percentage of people who are asymptomatic and possibly spreading the disease without even knowing it,” said Col. Cameron Pringle, 319th Reconnaissance Wing commander. “Our medical professionals have done a great job in identifying some of these cases, performing contact tracing and greatly minimizing the spread of COVID.”

 

Base leadership decided early on to limit base access, encourage teleworking where possible and enforce strict social distancing rules.

 

“We’ve worked hard to do our part in defending our Airmen and families against COVID-19 and we will continue to do our best to keep our community safe.”

 

In recent months the base began relaxing certain COVID-19 restrictions considering the downward curve, to include a soft opening of the gym, loosening base access restrictions and allowing non-essential personnel to return to the workplace.

 

As more information unfolds, the pendulum may continue to swing back and forth between limited and full operations, but one thing is certain: the focus throughout these uncertain times continues to be the health and well-being of Warriors and their families, who all play vital roles in the Grand Forks AFB mission.