The Air Force is assuming that COVID-19 will be a 'cyclical' virus that will likely come back until (and unless) a vaccine is created, according to Wednesday statements by Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the branch's top general.
"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 during a conference call with reporters, where he said the Air Force will conduct at "new reset" on June 1 in order to operate in a "new abnormal" environment, according to The Hill.
"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," he added.
Top experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, 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.” -The Hill
"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," Goldfein said, adding that procedures to separate and isolate airmen operating critical missions such as nuclear, space, cyber and air mobility from each other has been working so far - and that there have been zero known coronavirus cases in nuclear and air mobility forces.
Goldfein also discussed the challenges posed by training recruits - of which over 6,000 have come through for basic training of late. Five have tested positive for the virus. The Air Force has reduced its training capacity by around 50% due to the pandemic.
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. -The Hill
"Those are all the protocols that we're putting in place to see if we can get back up from 50 percent," said Goldfein. "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."