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DoD Outlines Stages to Lifting Pandemic Restrictions

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U.S. Army
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

DoD guidance for returning to post-pandemic conditions includes a five-step process for resuming normal and routine activities, based on reductions in infections and increasing ability to treat patients with or without COVID-19 at military medical treatment facilities.

The only timetable in the May 19 plan requires installations to show 14 days of improvement between steps. Normal—or the new normal, since there may be new health precautions—wouldn’t happen until the virus is no longer detected or reported in a local area or when a large portion of the population has been vaccinated or has immunity after recovering from an infection.

In a defensewide memorandum, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he is “extremely proud” of how service members, DoD civilians, contractors and families have managed the restrictions.

Esper empowers local commanders to change “HPCON” levels in consultation with medical authorities as conditions allow but recommends installations within a commuting area coordinate their policies.

“These decisions must be informed by local conditions based on public health surveillance data; guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; collaboration with state, territorial, and local authorities; and advice from the command Public Health Emergency Officer and local military medical treatment facility,” he wrote.

Installations do not have to follow changes in the local civilian community. “Commanders may set HPCON levels that are more stringent than surrounding community requirements based on mission and other risk considerations,” Esper said. 

Having installation rules more relaxed than the local community is something that “must first be reviewed by the next higher commander in the chain of command.”

Read the full memo here: