COVID-19 Virus: What the DoD Needs You to Know
Our country, and indeed the world, is in the midst of one of the most widespread health crises in recent memory. To call day-to-day life uncertain at this time is an understatement. And for those of you in the military community, where everyday life is uncertain on a good day, the COVID-19 outbreak can make things feel extra precarious. In the hopes that we can play some small part in helping our military members and military families through this difficult time, here is a review of the relevant facts and military news as provided by the Department of Defense and Center for Disease Control.
What is COVID-19?
This virus is a member of the coronavirus family, a large category of diseases that includes several strains of the common cold, plus more serious diseases like SARS. What makes COVID-19 a unique risk is that it’s a so-called “novel” strain of coronavirus. This means it was unidentified prior to the start of the outbreak in 2019. It also spreads fairly easily, primarily via person-to-person contact. The primary symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
For more information and answers to common questions about this disease, check out the CDC’s COVID-19 FAQ. If you think you or a family member may have the disease, check out the CDC’s symptom page and look into getting yourself and your family tested for COVID-19 immediately.
Who Is at Risk?
While everyone should do their absolute utmost to prevent the spread of COVID-19, current estimates are that most people infected will suffer relatively mild symptoms. Many of those who do suffer more severe symptoms will likely recover with proper treatment. But certain people are at a higher risk of potential fatal contraction of the disease. People over 70 and those with serious chronic conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes are particularly vulnerable. If you or a loved one falls into one or more of these categories, take extra safety precautions.
As this is a relatively new strain of virus, there is no vaccine or cure. But there are important and fairly simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of infection. The CDC’s Protection Guide lays out what everyone should do to stay healthy as possible. Some of the most important measures include:
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available and your hands require cleaning, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol will do.
- Avoid contact with other people as much as possible. Stay away from crowds and public spaces. Work from home is possible.
- Frequently clean/disinfect surfaces you touch regularly like computer keyboards, bathroom fixtures, door handles, etc.
Military Travel Ban
In order to limit the spread of the disease, many affected countries have imposed lengthy and widespread travel bans. The Department of Defense is taking similarly preventative measures. As of now, the following DoD travel restrictions are in effect:
- As of March 16th, all domestic travel is hereby banned until May 11th. This includes all military moves, including TDY and PCS.
- Only local leave will be authorized to military personnel.
- Exceptions are allowed for hardship, medical related, or mission essential travel, but only if approved by the appropriate chain of command.
- Anyone travelling back from a country the CDC has designed a Level 3 Travel Health Risk must self-isolate for two weeks before returning to work. This includes those who travelled directly from such a country or merely through it on their way to a different destination.
Countries Classified Level 3 Due to COVID-19
As of March 15th, the CDC has designed the following countries Level 3:
- South Korea
- The Czech Republic
- Denmark, Estonia
- The Netherlands
- San Marino
- Vatican City.
As mentioned above, the travel ban for military personnel includes all permanent change of station moves. This is currently in effect until May 11th, so those with previously issued orders requiring them to PCS between now and then will likely remain on hold for the time being. Further details on how and when PCS-ing will restart military wide have not been published yet. But we will be keeping a regular eye out for them and do our best to inform our military community once we hear of them.
Whenever any big changes or announcements in DoD policy and information come around relating to COVID-19, we’ll do our best to let you know. But the best way to truly stay up-to-date is to keep a regular eye on the Defense Department’s Coronavirus Response page. It’s regularly updated with new directives as they come out. Plus press releases on specific bases, units, and outbreaks. And many of the links we’ve included here are part of the CDC’s comprehensive COVID-19 site, which is also worth reading in-depth if you’re at all concerned with this disease.
Staying informed will be just as important as staying healthy as we weather this crisis. And well will try our hardest to do our part in keeping you and your family informed with the latest military news related to the coronavirus. Stay safe, stay strong, and good luck.