GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - 3,500 sailors with money to spend have been set free in Gulfport.
For most of the pandemic, sailors at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport have been under Health Protection Condition Charlie.
“Which is fairly locked down for our sailors, our active duty service members here,” said Base Commander Capt. Jeff Powell. “We’re restricted, cannot do off-base dining, we cannot do non-essential shopping out in town.”
“Now that we’re back on Bravo as of Friday night, we’re able to enjoy a little bit more freedom and less restrictions,” Powell said. “And that’s because of the positive trends of the case rates and the COVID situation here in South Mississippi.
“We’re all more comfortable with what COVID means. We’re more comfortable with wearing masks, we know what social distancing means, and we’re comfortable with the precautions and I think we’ve kind of acclimated to the new normal if you will. We’ve learned more about the disease and how it’s transmitted and so our sailors are better able to protect themselves.”
The Seabee base, it seems, is a reflection of the community around it. They have been vaccinated at a similar rate, and they are ready to get out and enjoy life like the rest of us. Several Seabees could be found heading out to area restaurants on Tuesday.
“For our quality of life, feeling like we’re not locked down, getting a little more freedom, it’s really been huge for our sailors,” Powell said. “And the effect on the local economy should be noticeable very soon as we’re out and about and able to spend a little more money.”
The owner of Clean Cutz barbershop in Gulfport said before the pandemic, 65% of his business was military, so this past year has been very hard for him. He welcomed the news that some of his Seabee customers would soon be returning.
“I’ll be happy that things are going to be going back to normal,” said Devon Tipton, owner of Clean Cutz. “COVID made a big impact on our business in a negative way, so things will be a lot better now.”
Sailors will still be observing COVID-19 protocols of face masks and social distancing both on and off base.
“Health Protection Condition Bravo means there is still a moderate risk of transmission and we can be ordered back to Charlie if we need to if the numbers go off in the wrong direction. So we still need to maintain our vigilance,” Powell said.