Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield bans soldiers from bars, clubs amid community COVID surge

Coronavirus

Spc. Dorien Lewis, a combat medic with Division Sustainment Troops Battalion MEDOPS, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a U.S. Army Soldier, Aug. 17, 2021. (U.S. Army photo Sgt. Marquis Hopkins)

FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) – Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield is imposing tougher COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday.

Regardless of vaccination status, all service members will be prohibited from visiting bars, night clubs or dance clubs. That’s in addition to an existing mandate requiring masks inside any facilities on- or off-post.

Officials say Fort Gordon and Fort Benning have already implemented this measure — and Fort Stewart announced similar restrictions earlier in the pandemic.

According to Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza, the decision to move to General Order One was made after considering local COVID-19 case rates are double the previous record highs set earlier this year.

The highly contagious delta variant is fueling a surge in cases and hospitalizations as health officials push for more vaccinations.

“Georgia has among the highest COVID infection rates in the U.S. — along with one of the lowest vaccination rates,” the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division stated.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, in Bryan County, 43% of residents are fully vaccinated — the same rate as the state. However, just 24% of Liberty County residents are fully vaccinated.

“Our local hospitals are at full capacity and on diversion status for Intensive Care Unit beds,” Costanza continued. “We assess our tri-county data every day before we make decisions that impact our Soldier’s morale, but this is a health and readiness concern based on facts and data.”

According to 3rd ID Division Surgeon Lt. Col. John Gartside, household COVID spread has increased over the past week, accounting for over 25% of cases. Contact tracing has shown the majority of cases are community spread, off-post, and are then spread within the household.

“We know there is still a lot of misinformation out there,” Costanza stated. “For anyone still stuck on this pandemic being a conspiracy, we have lost members of our garrison staff to this disease, and family members of our Soldiers and DA civilians over the last year and a half.

“The continuing rate of infection in our area is a real risk to the community and our ability to train. We’re not out of this yet, and I will continue to monitor trends and put measures into place to mitigate risk to our Soldiers and family members. ”

Meanwhile, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield are preparing for the Department of Defense’s mandatory vaccination order for all service members. Officials say they are waiting on more detailed guidance from the Army at this time.

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