Eglin Air Force Base will be adopting a ’mission-essential’ posture beginning Tuesday as a means of helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, a serious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

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EGLIN AFB — Effective Tuesday, only “mission-essential” personnel will be on the base, installation commander Brig. Gen. Scott Cain announced Friday, as the installation takes steps to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

And even then, according to Cain, mission-essential personnel who can “telework” from off Eglin Air Force Base will do so.

Cain made the announcement during a Friday “virtual town hall” streamed live on the base’s Facebook page.

“If you don’t need to be on the base, don’t come to the base,” Cain said.

He hinted at a virtual town hall last week that Eglin could soon go to a “mission-essential” posture.

One of the challenges to moving in that direction, Cain said Friday, was determining exactly what mission-essential meant in a pandemic as opposed to other emergencies such as hurricanes, when those left on base comprise mostly security personnel.

“We’ve had to rewrite the book on what is mission-essential,” Cain said.

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Currently at Eglin, mission-essential personnel will include those involved only in the highest-priority testing missions, including civilian contractors, Cain said.

Base medical personnel also are considered mission-essential, Cain indicated, and people accessing medical care will also be allowed on the base under the terms of restricted availability of those services, according to information from the town hall.

Construction projects on the base also have been reviewed, Cain said, and as a result, those projects will be allowed to continue.

That could change if ongoing review of those projects indicates they could pose problems for efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, Cain said.

“This is a challenging time,“ Cain said, ”... and there are more challenging times ahead.” But, he also said, “We will get through it.”

The town hall included comments from Col. Matthew Hanson, commander of the 96th Medical Group, who has been consulting with local health officials about the coronavirus.

According to Hanson, while most local cases have been traced to origins outside the immediate community, “we’re beginning to see transmission from person to person.”

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That development was a factor in his decision to move the base to a mission-essential personnel posture, Cain said.

Eglin personnel deemed not to be mission-essential will be placed on administrative leave, according to information from the town hall. They will continue to receive a paycheck.

Cain noted Friday that if local authorities institute some form of travel restrictions, mission-essential Eglin personnel could continue to travel to and from work.