FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWTI) — Officials from Fort Drum are addressing questions from the community regarding COVID vaccines and back-to-school requirements.

In a town hall livestream on September 9, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division Major General Milford H. Beagle, Jr., was joined by Garrison Commander Colonel James Zacchino, Jr., and Fort Drum Medical Department Activity Commander Colonel Matthew Mapes to shared the latest COVID-19 information with the community.

To begin the conversation, Maj. Gen Beagle said that the mandatory military vaccination process officially began at Fort Drum on September 6. This vaccination process was announced by the Department of Defense and requires all servicemembers to receive the COVID vaccine. At this time, 78% of soldiers within the division have been vaccinated.

According to the Commander, all unvaccinated Soldiers, and those who need their second shot are directed to go, by unit, to the mass vaccination site on post. Soldiers are briefed on the mandatory vaccination policy, and then they either receive the vaccine, or explain why they are seeking a medical or religious exemption.

“The key thing there is making sure we are treating everybody with a high level of dignity and respect, and nothing is going to be taken against you just because you decline,” Beagle said in a press release. “But we record that. The key for us right now is accountability.”

Additionally, in accordance to guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Drum MEDDAC is currently providing third doses for the COVID vaccine for moderate-to-severe immunocompromised individuals. For all other individuals, the vaccine booster is awaiting approval.

During the town hall, the group also addressed the start of the new school year in communities that surround Fort Drum.

“Overall, we continue to dialogue with all of our schools off post, and we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis as we remain committed to keeping our community safe,” Garrison Commander Col. James Zacchino, Jr., said.

Col. Zacchino then referred to a Community Information Exchange that took place on September 8. At the exchange, Fort Drum School Liaison Officer Wendy O’Sullivan discussed the guidance school districts received from New York State.

In all local Districts, students are required to wear masks, regardless off vaccination status, while in school and inside school busses. Schools have been advised to work with the state and local health departments throughout the school year to monitor community spread of the virus.

The Fort Drum town hall livestream can be viewed in the player below.