The U.S. Defense department has put a new coronavirus travel ban in place aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 within the United States.
As of March 16, the Pentagon has ordered a halt to all domestic travel for service members and their families, in a freeze that is expected to last until May 11. This ban comes amid a number of related announcements pertaining to new precautions being taken at the local and federal levels, including an expansion of testing for Covid-19 and state officials taking action to limit the public’s interaction with one another.
For updates pertaining to basic training graduation and family events, check here.
It’s important to remember that, while Covid-19 has proven difficult to contain, service members and their families by and large do not meet the criteria for high-risk patients. Covid-19 can be particularly dangerous for older individuals and those with underlying immune-defincies. Covid-19 infection can, however, leave service members ill and in need of treatment, which would negatively affect the readiness of America’s defense apparatus.
In other words, although the threat posed by Covid-19 to most Americans is far from lethal, the government and Pentagon are still taking the virus, and their precautions, very seriously.
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“All DoD service members and civilians, and their family members will stop all official travel – such as Permanent Change of Station or Temporary Duty – through May 11. Exceptions may be given for compelling cases where the travel is: (1) determined to be mission essential; (2) necessary for humanitarian reasons; or (3) warranted due to extreme hardship,” the DoD’s fact sheet reads.
Service members and their families who are already executing PCS orders at the onset of the coronavirus travel ban are permitted to continue to their new duty stations. However, new PCS orders will not be cut or executed between March 16 and May 11.
Service members and families that have not left to execute orders but have already had their household goods picked up for shipment to their next duty station should contact their local shipping office to assess the location of their belongings. The shipping office will help you find out if your belongings are still local and accessible.
If you are unsure whether your orders are being effected by the coronavirus travel ban, contact your command for guidance. If your orders have been listed as an exception or if your move doesn’t fall with the banned criteria, you should keep your vehicle drop-off appointment.
If your vehicle has already been dropped off for shipment and you’re being told to stay at your current duty station, contact your local Vehicle Processing Center (VPC) immediately to see if you can have your vehicle returned. The VPC will also be able to answer other questions you may have about the shipment of your vehicle.
The Pentagon has stated that they will use all means available to assist service members who have already terminated their leases in anticipation of their change of station. Reimbursable travel expenses are still authorized on government travel cards.
The Pentagon recommends you contact your command directly to discuss what assistance it can provide.
Between March 16 and May 11, TDY/TAD travel will be halted, however, service members who are currently TAD with orders that end during this window of time will be permitted to return home. The Pentagon advises, however, that commands and service members be mindful of health protection measures both in the vicinity of the TAD command and of the command the service member will be returning to — as well as advising that service members exercise social distancing and frequent hand washing during travel.
Although public health officials have advised not traveling, there are currently no travel restrictions for military dependents within the United States. Dependents have been barred from traveling to any CDC threat Level 2 or 3 nations, however, which at this point make up most of the world, but there are no current limitations on travel between U.S. States.
However, the Pentagon advises that all dependents remain mindful of appropriate precautions for the areas they travel to, from, and through.
Service members are still authorized to take leave provided the do not intend to travel outside of the local area, though there may be some exceptions made on case-by-case basis.
“This is being done to limit the spread of and potential exposure to COVID-19. Exceptions may be given for compelling cases where the travel is: (1) determined to be mission essential; (2) necessary for humanitarian reasons; or (3) warranted due to extreme hardship.”
Exceptions to the coronavirus travel ban
Just like with other Covid-19 related travel bans, the Pentagon acknowledges that exceptions will need to be made in order to properly implement this new policy. As such, commanders have been given leeway in approving exceptions.
In circumstances where travel is required for humanitarian reasons or as a result of extreme hardship, exceptions can be made by local commanders. Likewise, mission-essential travel can also be approved on a case-by-case basis.