Last Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced a new “Safer at Home” order to replace her March “Stay at Home” order. The new edict relaxed some of the restrictions put into place to help flatten the curve of infection caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
It allowed more businesses to open Monday, as long as they adhere to policies put forth by the CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health and federal guidelines to ensure the wellness and safety of their customers.
Redstone Arsenal has stood in solidarity with the cities of Huntsville and Madison, and the dozens of communities from which they draw their 40,000-plud daily workforce. They began synchronizing their COVID-19-related policies to mirror those of the communities surrounding them. From six feet apart social distancing to closing all nonessential businesses and activities and enforcing the wearing of face masks when out in public; the arsenal garrison has also kept a watchful eye on hospital treatment capabilities in Huntsville, Athens, and Florence.
Key to their commitment to the people of Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal relies as much on bed space, personal protection equipment, and other mission essential capabilities as the communities that support them.
Redstone Arsenal has about 7.8 million square feet of administrative or office space and the workforce shares common-use space.
What has life been like on Redstone Arsenal, and how will it look beginning May 19 going forward?
“Some of the steps we’ve taken are very similar to what businesses around the community are doing, as well as what the governor has suggested,” said Redstone Arsenal Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey A. Smith. “We did occupational health assessments of our buildings with the intent of spacing people out and creating that six-foot physical distance between people.
“We have gone through with our contracting partners to clean all that workspace and disinfect those areas, and we put up signs that designate when that cubicle or those offices were last cleaned. The idea being to allay workforce concern as they come into work.”
Smith said their intent has been to minimize the workforce’s opportunity to gather in large groups, leading to the closing of all dining facilities except for take-out. MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Benefits) runs the cafeterias, sports facilities and activities, the Pagano Gym, Redstone Arsenal Links at Redstone golf course, as well as the Automotive Skills Center.
The garrison closed the Auto Skills Center and golf course to minimize their interactions. Golf, Smith said, is a socially distancing sport but, for every person that comes onto the course, there are still 20 people at work who are exposed.
“For me to move workforce out of harm’s way, we minimized the workforce and reduced both ancillary and amenity benefits and trimmed ourselves down to mission essentials,” he said.
“I would tell you that like any businessman or woman, I would certainly like to open up my revenue-generating organizations. But my first job is to protect the health, safety, security and welfare of the population, no matter how much we want to get out and play golf or go bowling.
“Until we see this virus isn’t virulently spreading, and we can actually bring people together in groups of greater than 10 without that happening, I will be reticent to opening up any MWR on the installation.”
He said for essential face-to-face customer service benefits where a customer and an employee come into direct contact and can’t keep a 6-foot distance, they have installed plexiglass shields.