By Alberto Garcia
Just as states are removing COVID-19 quarantine orders, a new policy by the US Defense Department will permanently bar any person that had the coronavirus from joining the military.
The memo sent from the US Military Entrance Processing (MEP) Command to all 65 MEP centers through the country where new recruits are screened and processed for entry into all branches of the military.
“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo states.
Recruiters are also instructed to take temperature readings and ask questions about symptoms and potential contact with infected individuals before accepting a potential recruit.
Any recruit that fails the initial screening won’t be tested and can return in 14 days if they’re symptom-free, but anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will have to wait 28 days after diagnosis to report to MEPS.
When a prospective recruit returns after a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, their application will be marked as “permanently disqualifying” for admission into the military
Recruits that are rejected can apply for waivers for all permanently disqualifying conditions, including COVID-19, but without any further guidance for exceptions dealing with COVID-19, a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver.
Medical experts are still unsure if the COVID-19 virus causes permanent damage to lungs, heart, and other organs even from an infection that does not require hospitalizations. Tests from patients that have recovered have shown organ damage, especially among individuals with asthma or other mild respiratory conditions.
New recruits that were already in training have all been tested for the virus. COVID-19 clusters have been discovered at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the largest Army training facility; as well as San Diego’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), the Marine Corps’ biggest initial entry training installation.
The new policy comes as the military usually prepares for a surge in recruitments after high school graduations in May and June.