Col. Lee Gentile

47th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Lee Gentile announced Wednesday night that the first COVID-19 case in Del Rio and Val Verde County is a member of Laughlin Air Force Base community.

The first confirmed case of novel coronavirus disease in Del Rio was identified Wednesday night as a member of the Laughlin Air Force Base community. The case, 47th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Lee Gentile said, is travel-related and has been contained.

In a video posted on Laughlin’s Facebook page, Gentile confirmed the patient is an Airman’s family member.

Tuesday night, Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens and Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano announced the first case of an individual testing positive for COVID-19 in Del Rio and Val Verde County.

“We have been monitoring that family since they returned to our area, that is a travel-related case of COVID-19. I also want to assure you that it is contained,” Gentile said in the post.

Gentile said aggressive measures, both from the civilian and military perspectives, are in place to ensure that the virus is contained.

“We knew about this family when they came back, and we immediately put them into quarantine, had we waited until they showed symptoms, we would have exposed hundreds, but that is not the case,” Gentile said.

Gentile also announced the implementation of Health Protection Condition “Charlie” after the base had been under Health Protection Condition “Bravo.” The status change will increase travel restriction for Laughlin’s personnel, restrictions to open spaces at the military facility and the way some services are provided.

“I know that it is concerning with you and your family as it is with mine, but I want you to know, that this aggressive measures that the CDC has outlined, they will work, and we will slow this virus down,” Gentile said in his message to the community.

“We will ensure that this family gets the medical care they need,” he said.

Gentile signed a public health emergency “This declaration is about our number one priority: protecting Team XL and the incredible city of Del Rio,” he said in a statement released Wednesday night.

“The best way to ensure we meet this focus is by adhering to the Department of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force’s guidance, as well as by working alongside our community partners.”

Gentile reiterated Laughlin’s top priority is the safety and well being of the community, especially those at high risk.

“Slowing this down ensures that we don’t overwhelm our medical capability, that is critical to saving lives, we got to make sure that we get those critical resources available for those that are sick,” he said.

The diagnosis will not be affecting Laughlin’s training mission, Public Affairs Capt. Mahalia Frost said.

“Our leaders are working diligently alongside our local partners to aggressively combat the spread of this virus within our community. Laughlin plays a critical role in producing combat-ready pilots for the United States Air Force.

“We are continuing training operations and have implemented every measure necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our members while complying with guidance provided by the Department of Defense,” she said.

Frost said the new restrictions affect access to the base, with mission essential personnel or residents primarily accessing.

“There is currently no restriction limiting members with base access from entering. Anyone accessing the base must undergo a ‘self-quarantine questionnaire.’ These questions are instituted as another preventative measure to limit a member’s exposure to someone who may display symptoms of the coronavirus,” she said.

Pertaining civilian employees, she said base leadership has been monitoring their situation, and instituted aggressive measures to protect the health of Laughlin members.

“One measure is focused on providing alternative working locations for our civilian employees.  In extraordinary circumstances, such as this, commanders can have DoD federal employees telework.

“If an employee is not eligible for telework or is incapable of teleworking due to the nature of work or technological limitations, local commanders have the discretion to offer weather and safety leave,” she said.

Laughlin is encouraging military members who display symptoms outlined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or who have recently traveled from an affected area, to immediately contact the 47th Medical Group appointment line at (830) 298 6333 (during normal duty hours) or the Nurse Advice Line at 1 (800) 874 2273.

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