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DOD Halts Travel To, From COVID-19 Affected Countries

In response to the growing coronavirus epidemic, Defense Department officials are looking to safeguard the health and safety of military and civilian personnel and their families.

"The department is committed to doing our part in the administration's comprehensive fight against the coronavirus by enhancing the safety of our personnel, helping them stay healthy, and making sure they're able to continue executing the mission," Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said during a Pentagon news conference this morning.
 
Last night, Esper issued a memo entitled "Travel Restriction for DOD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Man speaks with Marine.
Dr. Mark T. Esper
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper visits with a service member at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., March 6, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200306-D-BN624-0559

 
The memo states that, beginning tomorrow, all DOD military and civilian personnel and their families traveling to, from, or through areas that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention label as a Level 3 danger will stop movement for the next 60 days. This includes all forms of official travel, including permanent change of station, temporary duty and government-funded leave.

For military personnel, this restriction also includes personal leave and other non-official travel.

In addition, the memo calls on DOD travelers to carefully plan travel to ensure scheduled flights do not transit through or originate in Level 3 designated locations. 

This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Coronavirus
This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Photo By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustration
VIRIN: 200303-D-ZZ999-112M

The CDC designates the following as Level 3 countries: Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

Esper's memo further curtails concurrent, official travel for family members of DOD uniformed and civilian personnel to Level 2-designated locations for 60 days. The memo also freezes DOD civilian personnel hiring actions for positions in locations designated as Levels 2 and Level 3 locations. Travel is also frozen for employees who have already been hired, but who have not yet embarked. 

In the memo, Esper calls on components to examine all travel and only approve mission-essential trips.

A soldier checks a thermometer reading.
Prescreening Personnel
Soldiers prescreen personnel entering U.S. Army Garrison Casey in Dongducheon, South Korea, for symptoms of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, Feb. 26, 2020. Additional screening measures of a verbal questionnaire and temperature check are in response to the heightened awareness of COVID-19 following a surge in cases throughout South Korea and are meant to help control the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the force.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Amber Smith
VIRIN: 200226-A-SV709-0107

"Our combat commanders, service secretaries and the chief management officer are authorized to grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis," Esper said during the press conference. "Our commanders, of course, have the authority to provide direction and guidance to the troops every step of the way."

Other impacts of the coronavirus epidemic include changes to exercises and other training events.
 
Esper said the coronavirus situation is changing as scientists, researchers and medical professionals learn more about it. That means the guidance the department issues will change as warranted, he said.