DoD Announces New Pentagon COVID Restrictions

DoD Announces New Pentagon COVID Restrictions

Soldier with needle
Photo by: U.S. Army/Marcy Sanchez

Beginning Jan. 10, Pentagon officials will tighten access to the building and increase telework opportunities to combat rising COVID-19 cases.

Driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, new COVID-19 cases per day in the U.S. have more than tripled over the past two weeks, reaching a record-shattering average of 480,000, the Associated Press reported. On Jan. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said omicron accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, according to AP.

The virus has affected the Pentagon as well. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tested positive Jan. 2, and he spent the following week working from home and battling symptoms he described as “mild.”

On Dec. 23, officials said seven staffers who traveled to Nebraska, California and Hawaii with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks tested positive for COVID-19, Politico reported. Hicks and members of her immediate staff tested negative. 

“The Secretary of Defense’s number one priority during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be protecting our workforce while performing our national security mission,” the Pentagon said in a Jan. 6 statement announcing the new restrictions. “Supervisors will continue to provide maximum telework opportunities and flexible scheduling to optimize the workforce while defending our nation, taking care of our people, and ensuring success through teamwork.”

Additional measures include maintaining workspace occupancy rates at less than 25%; requiring masks indoors for service members, civilian employees, contractors and visitors, regardless of vaccination status; and maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distancing.

The Pentagon Athletic Center will be open to active-duty military and Pentagon Force Protection Agency first responders only; gatherings are limited to fewer than 10 people; public tours are suspended; the 9/11 Memorial remains closed; and conference facilities, including the Pentagon Auditorium, are not available for reservations.

Officials also are discouraging indoor promotion and retirement ceremonies through the end of January.

In his statement announcing his positive test result, Austin encouraged the DoD workforce to get vaccinated or receive a booster shot. Vaccinations, including boosters, are available through the DiLorenzo Pentagon Health Clinic, officials said.

“The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce,” Austin said. “I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue.”

For more on DoD’s COVID-19 response, click here.