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Department of Defense Strategy for COVID-19 Testing and Surveillance

Current as of Oct. 1, 2021


The Department of Defense will begin testing some asymptomatic service members as part of the next phase of its strategy to break the chain of coronavirus disease 2019 transmission and to protect the health of the force. The multipronged approach also calls for COVID-19 surveillance, contact tracing and restriction of movement.

The strategy includes the following tactics.

Screening, restriction of movement and asymptomatic testing

Regular viral testing can lead to early detection of COVID-19 and guide action to stop the spread. DOD components will continue screening service members for COVID-19 and restricting the movement of those who may have been exposed to the disease.

DOD components will test service members who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 in accordance with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.

Among those who will be tested are service members who are about to deploy or start training. Testing will be prioritized by tier and testing capacity:

  • Tier 1: Those involved in critical national capabilities will be tested first.
  • Tier 2: Engaged fielded forces will be tested when Tier 1 has reached a steady state.
  • Tier 3: Forward deployed/redeployed forces will be tested when Tiers 1 and 2 have reached a steady state.

COVID-19 surveillance

A select number of other asymptomatic service members will also be tested for the disease:

  • Ten percent of active-duty clinical health care personnel
  • Ten percent of service members who live in congregate settings
  • One percent of service members in Tiers 1-4 will be tested every 14 days as testing resources increase

Those on official international air travel will be tested one to three days before departure and must maintain proof of negative test results during travel. Personnel conducting unofficial international travel are also advised to get tested one to three days before departure. For those traveling via military airlift, an Aerial Port of Embarkation health screening is mandatory. Travelers who have a medical issue identified during screening, refuse to be tested or screened at the APOE, may be denied travel.

The Department of Defense will continue health surveillance using electronic databases and other public health tools to report test results and assess the threat of COVID-19. Those tested will receive their results.

Contact tracing, testing and restriction of movement

Contact tracers will reach out to individuals who have had contact with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19. Close contacts will be tested for COVID-19 whether or not they have symptoms of the disease. Quarantine measures will be implemented.

Those under a travel associated restriction of movement should:

  • Restrict movement to residence or other appropriate domicile.
  • Limit close contact with anyone you didn’t travel with and adhere to strict wearing of face covering and washing hands frequently. Avoid crowds, use of public transportation and close interaction with pets.
    • Adhere to these guidelines for 14 days, even if ROM period is less than 14 days.
  • Consider ROM location as official duty location.
  • Self-monitor for fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other COVID symptoms.
    • If symptoms develop, self-isolate. Seek advice via telephone with a healthcare provider and return to work only at the direction of the healthcare provider.
  • Service members and DOD civilian employees must notify chain of command or their supervisor if they or others in their household develop symptoms.
  • Telework when practical per direction of commander or supervisor

Post-arrival ROM may not be required if travelers comply with destination health authority testing requirements.

Stay up-to-date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

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