Public Health Flight fights COVID-19 to keep Saber Nation safe

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jovante Johnson
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 52nd Aerospace Medical Squadron Public Health Flight is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as the 52nd Fighter Wing implements policies and takes actions to protect the base populace from a new virus with no current treatment or vaccine.

This small but mighty flight ramped up the COVID-19 response quickly in February 2020 when the first laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases were identified in Northern Italy. The situation evolved into a personnel-heavy effort that required the mobilization of many of the 52nd Medical Group resources to investigate cases and contacts, conduct screenings, communicate risk, and plan for the next phases of the COVID-19 response.

“As Public Health, our unit consists of 26 different programs that are run throughout our Air Force Specialty Code,” said Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Glueckert, 52nd Aerospace Medical Squadron public health technician. “Community Health, Deployment Health, Food and Public Facility Sanitation, and Occupational Health are the four main programs we run.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Spangdahlem’s Public Health Flight is focused on ensuring the base community is healthy and safe. Public Health also worked hand-in-hand with Flight Medicine, Family Health, and the Lab to test individuals for COVID-19 safely and professionally. Additionally, they are still performing other necessary Public Health functions, like managing the base’s food safety program and maintaining oversight and communication with occupational health shops.

“As a result of HPCON-Charlie, Public Health has increased mission critical food and public facility inspections,” said Lt. Col. Danny Dacey, 52nd MDG Public Health flight commander. “At this critical time, in addition to COVID-19 case and contact investigations, food safety is as important as it has ever been, and we expect food handlers to redouble their food safety efforts.”

Whether they're active in the field or performing duties on base, the safety of our Airmen is a top priority. It’s the job of Public Health specialists to protect our forces from a vast array of illness and disease by minimizing health risks within our community. Responsible for everything from educating Airmen on safety procedures and food inspection to investigating hazardous materials and sanitary standards, these professionals perform public health activities ensuring that our Airmen remain healthy on bases all over the world.

“Our Public Health team is working hard with host nation health officials to monitor the health and safety of our community to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Glueckert. “Our team is also working closely with the 52nd Medical Group and other unit commanders to conduct case and contact investigations, which can be a resource and time-intensive process.”

Within the last few months Public Health’s focus has shifted to screening and tracking individuals associated with COVID-19, but their regular duties still have to get done and each section of the Public Health team continues to do their job. Deployment Health, Occupational Health, Food and Public Facilities, and Entomology all have roles to fill.

“Deployment Health coordinates the medical clearance of every person departing or returning to Spangdahlem AB,” said Dacey. “Occupational Health works closely with Bioenvironmental Engineering and Flight Medicine to provide evaluations of hazardous workplaces and mitigation techniques for reducing harm done to employees. Food and Public Facilities inspects all of the food facilities on base to ensure foods are maintained at proper temperatures and that expired or spoiled foods aren’t served to the public. Entomology collects ticks and other insects from patients who’ve been bitten and sends the specimens to Landstuhl for testing.”

Public Health is leading the way in safety for Spangdahlem AB.

“Public Health still stresses the importance of physical distancing on and off-base along with continuing to wash hands,” said Glueckert. “We encourage individuals to tune into town-hall meetings that happen twice a week. We encourage members to take the outbreak seriously and always feel free to call our hotline with questions or concerns.”

To contact the Public Health hotline call, 06565-61-8308 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, to be screened over the phone.