The US military will not allow individuals who have been diagnosed or hospitalized with COVID-19 to join, even if they have made a full recovery.
The new rule was revealed in a military recruitment memo from US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM). Military Times posted a copy of the memo to Facebook. The memo states that each of the 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) in the US will medically evaluate all potential recruits.
“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.
A previous positive coronavirus test is not grounds for disqualification by itself unless the individual has been hospitalized. Applicants who fail the initial MEPS screening can try again in 14 days if symptoms of the disease do not return. With a positive diagnosis, however, they must wait 28 days before returning.
Applicants can apply for a waiver for any permanently disqualifying condition including hearing loss, non-functioning limbs, and COVID-19, Military Times reports. Each waiver requires the review of military officials and at least one high-ranking doctor. A COVID-19 diagnosis preempts any such waivers.
Considering how little we yet know about the coronavirus disease and its accelerated spread, military officials considered several factors before implementing this categorial denial. It’s possible that respiratory damage from the disease could hamper physical performance for long into a victim’s future. It’s also possible that coronavirus disease survivors may yet be at risk of falling ill again, passing it on to others.
As Politico reports, at least 13 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for coronavirus disease after recovering from the outbreak that was first reported in March 2020. The ship and its sailors were quarantined for a month in Guam. They returned to work in April. By May, several sailors were reporting coughing and fever again.
According to Military Times, the military expects recruitment numbers to increase in the summer and fall as students graduate from school. MEPS is already testing every applicant for coronavirus disease before admitting them to basic training, and has reported positive diagnoses near Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, “the Army and Marine Corps’ biggest initial entry training installations.”
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.