COVID-19 testing, surveillance continues at GFAFB

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

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.