Troops and their families based in most states across the country have been given the OK to resume regular travel, except for some states that continue to see troubling rises in coronavirus cases.
Ten more states have met the criteria to lift the travel restrictions the Pentagon set in place in March, defense officials announced on Monday. That allows more service members and their families to resume not only recreational travel, but also permanent change-of-station moves.
Troops based in Guam, Puerto Rico and South Korea are also allowed to travel, with approval from their local commanders.
Locations must meet a series of criteria to see earlier travel bans lifted. Those criteria include no shelter-in-place orders; a two-week downward trend in COVID-19 symptoms; and a 14-day decline in new cases.
Two states where travel remains limited for service members — Florida and California — have recently reported increases in coronavirus cases. As of this weekend, Florida’s cases were up fivefold in two weeks, and California has seen a record number of cases in recent days. Plans for reopening both states are now in flux.
Michigan has also seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the last week. Other states that have seen bigger spikes in cases though — such as Texas and Arizona — remain greenlighted by the Defense Department.
Waivers will still be considered for mission-essential travel, emergencies and some PCS moves. Deployments could also resume for some units in locations that are still seeing travel restrictions, though they’re being considered on a case-by-case basis.
Defense Department travel restrictions were relaxed across much of the U.S. earlier this month. Travel was also allowed to resume for troops based overseas in Bahrain, Belgium, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Local commanders can still limit travel at the base level, according to the Defense Department.
Pentagon officials in March announced strict travel restrictions at the start of the global pandemic. That halted many deployments, temporary assignments and PCS moves.
The ban was expected to be lifted on May 11, but was later extended to June 30.
Nearly 12,000 U.S. troops have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. About half of those troops have recovered. Three service members have died of COVID-19 and nearly 300 have required hospitalization.
The U.S. is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases this month. The illness has infected more than 2.6 million Americans, killing 128,000.
— Patricia Kime and Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.