NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
When the first patient in the United States was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January, there was not much known about this deadly virus. Seven months later, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) is more informed than ever. To help fight the virus, items like face masks, face shields, and sanitizers are used to help prevent the spread of the disease. Knowing these items work shows that the biggest tool that NNSY has to combat COVID-19 is knowledge.
“The more people who know the policies and safety measures put in place to keep COVID-19 from spreading in the shipyard, the better chance we have of beating this,” said Raphael Gagnon, NNSY’s COVID Management Team (CMT) member.
NNSY brought in staff from Naval Medical Readiness Training Center Portsmouth to conduct contact and investigative training sessions for case managers, supervisors, and anyone else who seek the knowledge. “The CMT is made up of mostly engineers. This is why we rely on people like Cmdr. Scott Welch from the shipyard’s branch medical clinic and other outside sources who are more fit to conduct the training that is needed,” said Gagnon.
Naval Medical Readiness Training Center Portsmouth’s Environmental Health Officer and Preventive Medicine Department Head, Lt. Paris Williams, gave training on how to identify people who may have potentially been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. “Early on, we found out that one way to combat and keep COVID-19 from spreading is to identify those who are close contacts potentially and to place them in a restriction of movement (ROM) status to protect the public as well to further assess that individual so we can make sure that if they become symptomatic that they get the utmost care,” said Williams.
During the training, there were several questions shipyard personnel had. Although Williams answered most of the questions, Gagnon answered them in his head and in doing so, it told him NNSY was doing things right because his answers reflected the answers Williams gave. “One thing that is perfectly clear from the training, physical distancing and face masks go hand in hand toward preventing the spread of COVID-19. This is a lesson we have been trying to make the shipyard population understand, we should all wear our mask and be more than six feet from each other. If we need to be closer, restrict the conversations to less than 15 minutes and wear your mask,” said Gagnon. “Everyone in the shipyard should have at least two cloth masks provided through their department. In addition, face masks and disinfecting supplies are also available.”
Gagnon found out the training was beneficial to him as well. It provided an opportunity to talk to Lt. Williams to get answers and clarifications on COVID-19 policies to help provide the shipyard workforce the most current and accurate information.
Knowing that not everyone can attend the classroom training, members from the CMT canvas NNSY on a regular basis to answer any questions and help department heads, supervisors, managers and workers. “We want to find areas needing our attention and see how we can help spread the knowledge,” said CMT member Jermaine Ellis. “Fighting COVID-19 is a marathon, not a sprint and we will continue to push knowledge to our workforce.”