DOD officials explain new coronavirus domestic travel restrictions

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A New York State Department of Health health program administrator briefs New York Army National Guardsmen are in New Rochelle, N.Y., March 14, 2020. New York National Guardsmen are supporting the multi-agency response to COVID-19. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Sean Madden)
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Defense officials announced restrictions on domestic travel March 14 for service members, Defense Department employees and family members in response to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist signed a memorandum halting all domestic travel, to include permanent changes of station and temporary duty travel. The ban is in effect from March 16 to May 11.

Officials speaking on background said the new memo said that service members will only be authorized local leave only.

The ban is in addition to restrictions on all DOD military and civilian personnel and their families traveling to, from, or through areas for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. That policy also stops PCS and TDY travel through May.

There are exceptions for hardship, mission essential and humanitarian travel, but those exceptions must be approved. Domestic travel for medical treatment is excluded from the ban. 

New York Army National Guard Pfc. Michael Ulrichy, assigned to the 4th Finance Detachment of the 53rd Troop Command, distributes hand sanitizer to members of the Mamaroneck Highway Department near New Rochelle, N.Y., March 13, 2020. Ulrichy and more than 250 other New York National Guardsmen were helping a New York State Department of Health task force to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 virus cluster outbreak in Westchester County, N.Y. (Army photograph by Col. Richard Goldenberg)

There are 10 service members who have tested positive for COVID-19. One DOD civilian and two DOD contractors have the virus, as do eight family members, officials said. There are 13 DOD laboratories that can test samples for the virus.

The officials said the new policy is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. Each day tens of thousands of service members and DOD civilians are traveling. This ”strategic pause” is ”the best and safest route” to slowing the spread of the virus, they said.

The Pentagon reservation is also taking actions and raised the health protection condition in the building and associated properties to Bravo. This means all tours of the building are cancelled. Starting March 16, offices in the building will go on minimum manning, with vast numbers of employees teleworking.

Offices in the building will have rotating staffs and ”red and blue” teams. Those employees who require access to classified information to do their mission-essential tasks will work from the building, officials said.

New York Army and Air National Guardsmen pack food parcels at Feeding Westchester, a food pantry in Westchester County, N.Y., March 12, 2020, as part of the response to the effort to contain a cluster of a new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, cases in New Rochelle, N.Y. The soldiers and airmen were packing food for families to make up for the school lunch and breakfast meals students are missing after schools in New Rochelle were closed to prevent the spread of the virus. (Army photograph by Col. Steve Rowe)

The Pentagon will restrict access to employees with swipe card access, and will restrict international visitors. ”We are also restricting access of Pentagon officials who have been overseas in one of the CDC-defined Level 3 or 2 countries,” officials said on background. 

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

Personnel who return from these countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before being allowed back to work, officials said.

Pentagon officials are also closing employee fitness centers and said they are looking at other measures to lessen the chances of transmission.
 
 
 

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