As part of Operation Allies Refuge, the Public Health team at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is continuously out in the evacuee camps sharing tips and enforcing regulations to keep Airmen, volunteers and evacuees healthy. By encouraging everyone to wash hands often and wear masks and gloves when appropriate, Public Health works to mitigate the spread of disease and prevent illness.
“There’s a lot of rumors that disease is widespread but that’s not the case; there’s only a few isolated incidents for which we became aware of very quickly,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Mommaerts, 86th Medical Group physician assistant.
Multiple hand washing stations are set up for medical personnel and evacuees throughout each pod to maintain good hygiene.
“We use universal precautions such as wearing N-95 masks anytime we’re in the pod and practicing good hand hygiene such as washing our hands and using hand sanitizer,” Mommaerts said. “Those things go a long way in preventing the spread of disease.”
Public Health officials noted that evacuees are evaluated for any illnesses before being transported to the pods. They are, of course, on the lookout for potential Covid-19 infections. “If we suspect any COVID type symptoms, we isolate them to keep them from the population,” said Maj. Melissa Penn, 86th MDG nurse.
Each pod has a medical tent that evacuees are able to go to that provides care during their tenure at Ramstein as they await transportation to onward locations.
“What we do for those very few people [with illnesses] is typically isolate them in the medical tents and treat them until they’re better, then they can go back to the general population in the pod,” Mommaerts said.
Public Health mandated hygiene requirements for entering each pod are in place to keep Airmen and volunteers safe.
“After they sign in, there’s hand sanitizer that they have to use and N-95 masks at the desk when they come into the entry control point and nobody lets them out that door without having a mask on,” Penn said. “The biggest thing is hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infection so they clean their hands before they leave the pod.”
OAR, the largest airlift in U.S. history, is providing temporary lodging, food, water and medical services to evacuees while they await transportation to other transient locations.