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Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 as Travel Restrictions Loosen

Current as of Feb 23, 2021

Testing and Surveillance for COVID-19

Learn about the DOD’s expanded testing for coronavirus disease 2019 and other measures to detect the disease early and stop its spread.


Conditions are beginning to improve with regard to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. In response, the Department of Defense is changing its approach to personnel movement and travel.

Officials signed a memo May 26 to transition to a conditions-based phased approach to the restrictions. Until further notice, the DOD will base decisions on conditions in specific areas. This replaces the broad travel restrictions in place before.

The memo cancels previous travel restrictions and reissues guidance that will remain in effect until further notice.

With restrictions gradually easing, it’s even more important to take every precaution to protect yourself and others when you do travel. And the DOD will continue to work with you to keep you and our community healthy and safe.

Wearing cloth face coverings

Military personnel, families and supporting civilian members serve as role models during extremely challenging times. One way you can do this now is to take steps to protect yourself and others whenever you need to go out. This includes following Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing may be hard to maintain. This can slow the spread of the virus and help people who may unknowingly have it from transmitting it to others.

  • Create your own cloth face coverings using common household items such as T-shirts, scarves and bandanas. Making and using these coverings helps protect public health while reserving critical supplies such as surgical masks and N-95 respirators for medical first responders, as current CDC guidance recommends.
  • 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.
  • Wear your face covering whenever you are on Department of Defense property, installations (except personal residences) and facilities when six feet of social distance isn’t possible in public areas or work centers.
  • All individuals 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. 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 an 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. For all other situations outside of office settings when temporary unmasking is necessary for mission requirements, the authority to grant exceptions may be delegated in writing to officials at a level no lower than a general/flag officer in the grade of 0-7, senior executive service member (or equivalent) or for installations that do not have officials at these levels, 0-6 installation commanders.

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

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 during travel

The Department of Defense is taking steps to protect travelers and others from COVID-19 by:

  • Prescreening service members before travel: Only those who are healthy and least at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will be allowed to travel
  • Using military and contracted planes for travel to or from overseas locations, when possible
  • Screening all passengers on military flights for signs of illness before they board the plane
  • Screening all service members, family and civilian military employees when they arrive at their duty station after traveling commercially

The screening includes a questionnaire to help determine whether you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Someone will take your temperature and visually check you for signs of illness. There may be additional screenings depending on where you traveled and other risk factors.

Overseas travel

Travelers returning from any overseas location will be quarantined for 14 days. If you live in open quarters or have a shared kitchen or bathroom, you will be moved to separate lodging for quarantine.

During those 14 days:

  • Take your temperature twice a day.
  • Keep at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Call your doctor if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19.

What you can do

Everyone has a role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. When you are traveling, keep your command updated on your itinerary. If you feel sick, stay home. Notify your leadership and call your doctor.

Even if you haven’t traveled and you feel fine, practice social distancing and wear your cloth face covering. Keep at least six feet away from others. Avoid crowds and wash your hands often. Social distancing combined with mask wearing, avoiding touching your face and frequent hand washing will assist in defending the force against COVID-19 while protecting the nation. COVID-19 is one of the deadliest threats our nation has ever faced. As we have done throughout our history, the military will rise to this challenge. It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the health and safety of our force, our families and our communities so we can prevail in this fight.

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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