Defense Secretary Mark Esper today sent guidance to new commanders that would allow military installations to begin planning a return to normal operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Under this guidance, commanders make deliberate, risk-based decisions to change [Force Health Protection Condition] levels as conditions allow," according to a Pentagon statement.
Commanders are being directed to consider guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health authorities.
Commanders must also ensure the following criteria are met before loosening restrictions:
- a downward trajectory of reported cases of influenza-like and COVID-like illnesses over the preceding 14-day period;
- a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases or positive tests as a percentage of total tests over the preceding 14-day period; and
- assurance that military or local hospitals have the necessary capacity to treat patients and have an adequate COVID-19 testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers and anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
"The commanders will also ensure that comprehensive health surveillance processes are in place to monitor COVID-like illnesses and provide surveillance laboratory testing," the Pentagon said. "Commanders will at all times retain the inherent authority to increase their [Force Health Protection Condition] levels as necessary."