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Guidance for Department of Defense Civilians

Current as of Sept. 30, 2021

The Department of Defense is committed to evaluating the threat from COVID-19 and its impact on the nation’s security. The pandemic still presents risks, but conditions are improving.

Based on improving conditions, the DOD is making updates. It has changed its approach to travel restrictions. This applies to service members, DOD civilian personnel on government-funded travel and their families. The department is now reviewing local conditions by place. That dictates when to lift restrictions. This replaces previous broad restrictions until further notice.

The DOD has updated its COVID-19 travel restriction policy.

The department is now basing decisions on local conditions by place. This replaces previous broad travel restrictions.

The DOD will continue to assess its installations, facilities and locations to protect its people. They are its top priority. Conditions vary, so you can also contact local installations for updates.

Civilian community conditions may also vary, so check your state health department for details about local COVID-19 guidelines.

If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you can resume most activities without wearing a mask, except in areas of high community transmission and where required by laws, rules, regulations and local guidance. Masks are required on public transportation, including airplanes, trains and buses; and in transportation hubs, such as airports and train and bus stations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises everyone who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue to:

  • Practice social distancing and good hygiene.
  • Minimize nonessential travel.
  • Use face coverings in public.

If you are vulnerable, the CDC encourages you to shelter in place. If you feel sick, stay at home and call your medical provider.

New COVID-19 requirements for civilians who are deploying

As personnel start to resume movement, the DOD has new force health-protection requirements. They help minimize risk and ensure force health. They apply to DOD civilians who deploy or redeploy inside and outside the nation. They are in accordance with DODI 6490.03, which calls for:

  • Screening for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms before travel.
  • Viral testing for COVID-19 one to three days before departure. An exception to testing may be made if you recovered fully from COVID-19 within three months of deployment or if you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are traveling from the U.S. to a foreign country that does not require testing.
  • Restricting movement to your residence or other appropriate domicile for 10 days before deploying if you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Pre-deployment restriction of movement is not required if the host nation requires ROM upon arrival.
  • Limiting close contact with anyone you didn’t travel with and adhering to strict wearing of face covering and frequent hand-washing. Avoid crowds, use of public transportation and close interaction with pets.

While under restriction of movement:

  • Consider ROM location as your official duty location.
  • Self-monitor for fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other COVID symptoms. If symptoms develop, self-isolate and seek advice via telephone with a healthcare provider. Return to work only at the direction of the healthcare provider.
  • Notify chain of command or your supervisor if you or others in your household develop symptoms.
  • Telework when practical per direction of your commander or supervisor.

See the latest DOD guidance for more details.

Wearing cloth face coverings

All individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are performing DOD duties, whether on military installations or at other locations (indoor and outdoor) must wear masks, including in common areas, shared workspaces and outdoor shared spaces. Individuals must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in areas of high community transmission. The CDC provides data on levels of community transmission. It also offers guidance and definitions of low, moderate, substantial and high spread.

Masks must cover the face and nose in compliance with guidance from the CDC. Masks may be removed if an individual:

  • Is working from their home
  • Is alone in an office with floor to ceiling walls and a closed door
  • Is eating or drinking while social distancing (may remove for brief periods of time)
  • Needs to lower the mask for identification or security purposes
  • Needs to lower or remove the mask to reasonably accommodate individuals with a disability

Additional exceptions, categorical or case-by-case, may be granted in writing by DOD Component heads for service members and their families. If granted, exceptions should include appropriate alternative safeguards whenever feasible, such as additional physical distancing measures or additional testing consistent with DOD testing protocols. The authority to grant exceptions for all DOD Components located on the Pentagon Reservation is the interim director of Administration and Management.

Masks recommended by the CDC include:

  • Non-medical disposable masks
  • Masks made with breathable fabric or tightly woven fabric
  • Masks with two or three layers
  • Masks with inner filter pockets

Unauthorized masks include:

  • Novelty or non-protective masks
  • Masks with ventilation valves
  • Face shields

Do not place cloth face coverings on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without help. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face covering. Wash your hands as soon as you finish.

Changes at your workplace

As businesses reopen, it’s important to follow CDC safety guidelines at work, as well as in public. Keeping a safe distance from others and wearing a face covering is important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Your supervisor may ask you to continue to:

  • Work an alternative schedule, such as compressed hours or flexible workdays or hours.
  • Attend meetings by teleconference.
  • Work from home, if you can carry out your duties through telework.

Adaptive equipment availability

If you need to work from home, you may be eligible to receive adaptive equipment (ergonomic keyboards, lumbar support devices, screen magnification software, etc.) to help you perform your job. The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program will:

  • Provide equipment for identified needs at no cost to the agency.
  • In many instances, ship equipment directly to your home.
  • Conduct your needs assessment via telephone or email.
  • Extend medical documentation deadlines.

If you have limitations due to hearing or vision loss, memory loss, arthritis or carpal tunnel, visit the CAP website for more information.

When you must stay at home

There may be times when staying home is in the best interest of your coworkers and the community.

  • You may receive Weather and Safety leave if public health authorities order you to self-quarantine.
  • You may request telework if you have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 and want to self-quarantine. You may also request annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off or leave without pay.
  • You may request telework if you need to care for a family member who is not sick, but who is in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19. You must track your hours and use paid or unpaid leave for time spent on caregiving.

Working when school or day care closes

If your child’s day care or school has shut down because of COVID-19 and you don’t have alternative child care, check with your supervisor about the following options:

  • Continue teleworking while your children are home. You must track your hours and use paid or unpaid leave for time spent on caregiving.
  • Use annual leave or other paid time off, such as accrued compensatory time or credit hours.
  • Work an alternative schedule, such as compressed hours or flexible workdays or hours.

If you or a family member become sick

  • Speak with your supervisor if you or a family member becomes sick and you run out of sick leave. You may receive an advance of up to 30 days of sick leave for yourself and up to 13 days of sick leave to care for a family member who is ill.
  • If you become ill and need emergency care while working overseas, your command may prepay the cost of your care.
  • If your illness is work-related, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Healthy habits at work and home

We all have a role in keeping ourselves, our coworkers and others healthy and safe.

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Wear a face covering in public, especially when using mass transit.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you regularly touch such as counters, desktops, door handles, coffee pots and keyboards.

We will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves and additional guidance for civilian employees develops. You can find this guidance at Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service Emergency Preparedness.

Understanding of COVID-19 continues to change, so continue to check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page for updates.

Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms. For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

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