Military Travel Ban: DoD Guidelines, COVID-19 Regulations, & Symptoms
It’s been several months since our last comprehensive article on the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing response of the Department of Defense. 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. The novel coronavirus is a pervasive and widespread problem all across our nation and the world. Information about the disease itself 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 restrictions and current DoD guidance.
Coronavirus Department of Defense Efforts
Since the beginning of this crisis, the Department of Defense has been a critical part of the federal government’s response. And the DoD’s coronavirus response efforts continue throughout the nation as various states and regions see increases and decreases in the number of cases. The DoD is also hard at work on Operation Warp Speed, the program working diligently to develop and mass produce a potential vaccine as quickly as possible.
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.
If you happen to be one such individual so called upon, we cannot begin to understand the measure of your everyday sacrifices in the name of public health and safety. For your courage and perseverance, we can only offer our wholehearted and admittedly inadequate thanks.
US Military Travel Ban
The DoD shut down nearly all military travel, to include planned PCS moves, on March 12th with the original end date of the restriction planned as May 12th. On April 18th, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper extended the travel ban through June 30th. But on May 26th, the travel restrictions were further updated to reflect a phased reopening plan of all military installations based on criteria set forth by the CDC and President Donald Trump. Travel to certain locations will be allowed going forward with the hope that more bases will open as the summer goes on until all US military installations and the municipalities around them have fully reopened.
Reponening Phase Plan
As of May 26th, the DoD has approved some movement and travel as part of a phased reopening plan across the military. Personnel may begin/complete official movement provided certain criteria are met:
- The state/region they are traveling to must meet the Opening up America guidelines published by the White House. In short, that means the area must have lifted any previously in-place lockdown orders and seen a 14-day downward trend in persons infected with COVID-19.
- The destination base or installation has been approved for unrestricted travel. These determinations will be made at the discretion of the Military Secretaries and individual Combatant Commands. Generally speaking, the base must be capable of providing all essential services (including family services like schools and childcare) and have Health Protection Conditions (HPCON) below level C.
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 Moves
As 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
Many of you may have already started the moving process or even gone on to your next duty station. But if your move was not completed before the movement and travel restrictions began you may be affected. This may require you 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.
For the most current updates, visit the Defense Travel Management Office’s COVID Information and the DoD’s Travel Restriction FAQ pages. These resources have a comprehensive and regularly updated list of links to official guidelines, most asked questions, and memoranda.
Additional Restrictions on the Military
There 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 19
As 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 Attention
If 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.
Current 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
Throughout this crisis, the CDC has regularly updated their guidelines of what symptoms may indicate COVID-19. So check their page regularly to stay up to date on what to watch out for. The best weapon we have to battle this terrible disease at the moment is information and awareness.
In 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).
*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.