Just eight days after the Pentagon Reservation decided to extend its max telework policy to the end of January, officials have increased the region’s Health Protection Condition to Charlie.
The increase marks the highest health alert at the Pentagon since the end of 2020.
“The secretary of Defense’s number one priority during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be protecting our workforce while performing our national security mission,” a Thursday Defense Department release states. “Supervisors will continue to provide maximum telework opportunities and flexible scheduling to optimize the workforce while defending our nation, taking care of our people, and ensuring success through teamwork.”
The HPCON Charlie policy will go into effect on Jan. 10 and will require that organizations keep workspace capacity at less than 25%.
All personnel and visitors in the Pentagon must wear masks indoors and supervisors will continue to provide maximum telework opportunities when possible.
Other policies include enforcing social distancing of six feet, closing the Pentagon Athletic Center to everyone except active duty military and first responders and limiting any meetings to fewer than 10 people.
Official visitors will be limited to the minimum required for mission critical meetings and there will be no options for indoor seating in the food court.
“DoD remains committed to protecting our people, maintaining mission readiness, and supporting the whole-of-government effort response to COVID-19,” the Pentagon’s statement says. “We are continually emphasizing to our people the requirement to get fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and encouraging everyone eligible to get a booster shot and take actions to protect themselves and those around them by employing protective measures, including practicing good hand washing, social distancing, wearing tight-fitting face coverings, and taking appropriate actions if feeling sick now. These can dramatically decrease the risk of infection and slow COVID-19’s spread.”
The increase in health protections is due to a “dramatic increase” in COVID-19 cases, according to the official memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.
DoD said it will be monitoring the issue and did not state a timeline for when it will move out of HPCON Charlie.
The Omicron variant of the disease has been sweeping through the nation, bringing COVID-19 cases to record numbers. As of Jan. 5, the 7-day moving average for new COVID cases was at more than 584,000.
DoD announced that it would extend max telework through the end of January on Dec. 28, 2021. At the time DoD decided to stay of HPCON Bravo Plus, a distinction created during the pandemic.
DoD had been operating at Bravo Plus since September when the Delta variant started taking hold.