MILITARY TRAVEL BAN: DOD GUIDELINES, COVID-19 REGULATIONS, & SYMPTOMS
By Paul Mooney
IntroductionThis is a 2021 update for a comprehensive article we published last year about the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing response of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). We have no doubts that many of you, like us, have continued to monitor the situation on your own. After all, it’s almost impossible to not follow the unending news coverage of the tragic and difficult worldwide crisis. Covid-19 is a pervasive and widespread problem all across our nation and the world. Information about it—as well as the actions being taken to fight its spread and help those in difficulty—changes constantly as new needs arise. In that light, we’d like to begin with an update to the situation at large and, specifically, the military travel bans and restrictions and current DoD guidance.
U.S. Department of Defense Coronavirus EffortsSince the beginning of this crisis, the DOD has been a critical part of the federal government’s response, and the DoD’s coronavirus response efforts continue. The DoD also was instrumental in Operation Warp Speed, the program that develops and mass produces Covid-19 vaccines. (Click to Tweet this) Even as lockdowns and restrictions start and stop throughout the country, our courageous brothers and sisters in the Defense Department are out there protecting us as always.
U.S. Military Travel Bans and Restrictions: 2021 UpdateIn early 2020, the DoD shut down nearly all military travel, including planned PCS moves. A year later, many travel bans and restrictions are still in place, with information about it continuing to change at any moment. Military OneSource.com is one of your best and most reliable sources for up-to-the-date information about U.S. military travel (and much more). Their homepage has a “Get the latest on installation travel restrictions” box with a link to the most current update. (We’d share the link here, but, unfortunately, it becomes obsolete when they publish new updates. So, your best best is to go to the home page and find the link.) Also, their Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page is a well-organized and easy-to-use tool to get up-to-date-information about related programs, services and resources. This includes a link to a regularly updated page, What Do Travel Restrictions Mean for Service Members?, that has FAQs for questions.
How Many Military Bases Are Open?As of the latest update, issued August 17th, 94 US military installations have had their travel restrictions lifted. Read the latest Travel Restrictions Installation Status Update for the full list.
- Secretary Esper’s official travel restriction memorandum.
- The official DoD memorandum on the phased reopening process.
- Fact sheet on the criteria for condition-based personnel movement.
COVID-19 Impacting All PCS MovesAs this pandemic and the travel restriction continue through what would normally be the peak PCS season, it’s disrupting all but the most essential of military travel. Which includes permanent changes of station. In most cases, what's “essential” is up to the discretion of individual commands. But in general, it covers any and all medical or family emergencies.
Global Stop Order Movement & Receiving Additional Financial Aid: 2021 UpdateLast year, the DoD issued a Stop Movement Guidance, which may continue to disrupt the 2021 PCS (permanent changes of station) season and all but the most essential of military travel. Along with the websites and pages mentioned above, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) provides excellent up-to-date information about PCS guidelines during the pandemic. For those of you whose moves have been affected by the guidance, you likely were or or will be ordered to return to your still-current duty station or even an alternate location. In these cases, you’ll be issued TDY orders. That way you’ll still receive standard travel allowances and, if you must stay put, per diem to live on for the time being. If you think this situation should, or already does apply to you, reach out to your command and/or travel office to see if you qualify.
Additional Restrictions on the MilitaryThere are a lot of questions you may have about upcoming training, potential pay issues and more. There are effects on a variety of programs and benefits for active and reserve personnel, but the vast majority of things like pay, BAS, emergency leave, etc. are unaffected. Here is the in-depth list provided by the DoD with guidance on training, pay, benefits, and more.
8 Tips to Focus on Your Health During COVID 19As many of us have experienced in 2020 — taking care of your health doesn't only mean your physical health but also your mental health. We’ve provided the top 8 tips from CDC’s COVID guidelines to focus on your physical health and tend to your mental health to help you focus on a healthier you.
- Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least twenty seconds. If you need a good guideline, sing the first verse of your branch song while you do it. Aloud or in your head, either’s good. Those are all about 20-30 seconds.
- If you don’t have a sink handy, hand sanitizer will do in a pinch so long as it’s at least 60% alcohol.
- Maintain social distancing guidelines and stay 6 feet away from others whenever possible.
- Wear a suitable cloth face-covering any time you go out in public.
- Cough or sneeze into your arm instead of your hands and wash your hands immediately after you do.
- Clean and disinfect all regularly touched surfaces in your home, including frequently touched items like your phone and computer keyboard. Here are some great guides on how to do that right whether you use Apple or Android.
- Take time to meditate for even a few minutes.
- Give yourself a break from the news/social media.
When to Seek Medical AttentionIf you believe you’ve been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, or begin to experience any of the telltale symptoms listed in the sections below, contact your healthcare provider immediately.* Depending on the level of your symptoms, your doctor may instruct you to stay at home rather than visit in person (unless your symptoms worsen) in order to prevent you from getting infected or increasing your exposure. This is both to ease the burden on medical facilities and to protect you in case you do not actually have the disease and, therefore, could be easily infected by a trip to a high-risk facility.
COVID-19 SymptomsCurrent medical consensus holds that most cases are mild enough that those infected will recover on their own with appropriate self care. Regardless, you should contact your doctor if you begin to exhibit any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Cough, typically a dry cough
If these symptoms reach the point where you or a loved one express an inability to wake up, continuous chest pain, and/or a bluish tinge to the lips and face seek immediate emergency medical attention.These particularly signature and dangerous symptoms are not the only ones that indicate an infection with this disease. The following symptoms may also indicate a novel coronavirus infection and the CDC recommends you contact your doctor if you experience two or more these, even if you don’t have the breathing issues or cough:
- Chills (and associated repeated shaking)
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell or taste
ConclusionIn times of extreme crisis like this, particularly where separation from friends and loved ones is widespread, it’s important to stay up-to-date on vital information and guidance. From crucial things like medical information to important updates on the military travel restrictions and moving guidance, the facts of this unprecedented crisis are always changing. And always worth knowing. When you know what’s happening and what will likely happen in the future, you’ll be better prepared to take care of yourself and get back to normal as the country reopens. Stay safe, stay informed, and wash those hands (with or without singing).
Last Updated: March 16th, 2021
*The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.
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