Top general: Air Force preparing for coronavirus to be cyclical

Top general: Air Force preparing for coronavirus to be cyclical
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The Air Force is preparing for the coronavirus to be cyclical until a vaccine is developed, the service’s top general said Wednesday.

In a conference call with reporters, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said his service is preparing for a “new reset” June 1 to be able to continue to operate in a “new abnormal” environment until a coronavirus vaccine is ready.

“All the predictions are no vaccine for upwards of a year, so that means we've got to refine our ability to survive and operate and do the missions the nation require,” Goldfein said. “And we've got to bring back those missions that we slowed down, so we can get back to some kind of a sense of new normalcy in an abnormal world.”


Top experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Texas patrons threaten to call ICE on Mexican restaurant for keeping mask mandate Gottlieb: 'Probable' that high schoolers will get coronavirus vaccines this year MORE, have warned of the need to prepare for COVID-19 being a cyclical disease.

While Goldfein focused on the effects a cyclical virus would have on Air Force readiness, he said all military leaders are “looking at the future, studying the models, studying the science.”

“Until we have a vaccine, we're going to be living with this virus and the potential for it to come back in some cyclical way is likely,” he said. “So if that's the world we're living in, how do we as an Air Force operate in that environment and do the nation's business, especially those key tasks that we should not expect any relief.”

For example, he said, “there is no situation where I see the nation or the leadership giving us relief on having a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent connecting the commander in chief with forces in the field.”

Already, airmen in critical missions such as nuclear, space, cyber and air mobility have been separated into teams that are isolated from each other, procedures Goldfein said appear to be working, citing zero known coronavirus cases in nuclear and air mobility forces.


Another area of concern Goldfein raised about a cyclical virus is training. Of about 6,000 recruits who have come through basic training recently, only five have tested positive for the virus, Goldfein said. But the Air Force has still reduced its training capacity by about 50 percent amid the virus, he added.

Looking ahead to the “new reset” June 1, Goldfein said Air Education and Training Command Lt. Gen. Brad Webb will make recommendations to him on how to increase training capacity while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Goldfein highlighted some steps already taken such as building a “tent city” at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where basic training is held and expanding basic training to a second location, Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

“Those are all the protocols that we're putting in place to see if we can get back up from 50 percent,” Goldfein said. “We're probably not going to be able get to 100 percent until the protocols change, but if we can get from 50 to 60, 70, 75 percent, that will certainly be helpful.”