Covid-19 survivors banned from joining US military, Pentagon issues new 'permanently disqualifying' guidelines

Covid-19 survivors banned from joining US military, Pentagon issues new 'permanently disqualifying' guidelines
(Getty Images)

The US military has decided against recruiting people who have tested positive for Covid-19. A proposal in a memo from the US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) has confirmed this.

The contents of the memo, which have been circulating on the Internet, were confirmed to Newsweek by the Pentagon which called them as "interim guidance". The story was first published by Military Times. 

The Times report stated that while the defense department is negotiating ways through the Covid-19 pandemic which has threatened the armed forces, military entrance processing stations (MEPS) are working with a new guideline when it comes to roping in the infection survivors into the services.

Anyone who has a record of a Covid-19 infection is not going to be considered. 

"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 reads. Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell confirmed to the Times that the memo is authentic.


She did not explain why a coronavirus diagnosis would be permanently disqualifying, compared to other illnesses that do not preclude military service.

The memo also lays down guidelines for handling possible and confirmed cases of Covid-19 in applicants. According to it, any applicants at any of the 65 nationwide MEPS should be evaluated for possible Covid-19 infection, most likely through a check of temperature and questions about their symptoms and possible proximity with infected individuals. 

If an applicant seems likely to be Covid-19 positive, they can either return to the MPES if they are symptom-free after two weeks. Anyone who tests positive through a lab test or clinical diagnosis can come back to MEPS four weeks after their diagnosis. 


Diagnosis to be marked as 'permanently disqualifying'

"Upon return, a diagnosis will be marked as 'permanently disqualifying' for accession. Recruits can apply for waivers for all permanently disqualifying conditions, including surviving COVID-19. However, without any further guidance for exceptions dealing with Covid-19, a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver," the report added. 


In this handout released by the US Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Pacific Ocean. The warship has been hit seriously by the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

The strict norms are applied uniquely to coronavirus survivors while those with histories of other viral and non-chronic illnesses are allowed to enter the armed forces, said a Newsweek report.

The ban may also result from limited research on Covid-19 since not much has been known about the virus yet — the damage it causes on the lungs and body and whether it can re-emerge in those who seem to have recovered from it and if a prior history of infection makes a person more immune or susceptible to contracting it again. 

Even though the extent of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the military is something that the Pentagon keeps confidential, data from the defense department has shown the existence of more than 6,500 cases at more than 150 bases in every state except the likes of Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Montana.


National Guard forces in at least 20 states have also reported cases of coronavirus while some major warships like USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Kidd have been hit by the outbreak.

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