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DOD officials unveil COVID-related personnel, move guidance

By Jim Garamone | DOD News | May 28, 2020

WASHINGTON —

Defense Department officials outlined a conditions-based approach to relaxing the stop-movement order that has been in effect since early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper issued the order in early March, and in April, he extended the ban through June 30.

At a Pentagon news conference May 26, Matthew P. Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said Esper signed a memo lifting the June 30 travel restrictions and transitioning to a conditions-based phased approach for personnel movement and travel.

"While the COVID-19 pandemic still presents an overall risk to our service members, civilians and their families, varying conditions across the nation warrant this transition to a tailored approach," Donovan told reporters.

The conditions to resume travel will be based on two overarching factors, Donovan said. First, the resumption of unrestricted travel must align with state and regional criteria based on the guidelines of the White House's Opening Up America guidance. DOD and base officials also will adhere to guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Donovan said.

"Consideration of factors such as removal of shelter-in-place orders and a downward trend of new COVID-19 cases over the preceding 14 days will be used to make a determination for the resumption of movement between states, regions and nations," the undersecretary said.

The second set of factors incorporates the evaluation of installation-level conditions. "This includes items such as whether there are local travel restrictions, sufficient capacity of medical treatment facilities or local hospitals, testing capability and capacity and the availability of essential services such as schools and child care," he said. "These factors will be carefully considered before movement decisions are made."

The Pentagon reservation — the building and many leased spaces in the national capital region — has made tremendous progress and officials have seen a downward trend in coronavirus cases for 10 days, DOD Chief Management Officer Lisa W. Hershman said.

"We've been able to isolate, trace and mitigate any spread," she said. "To date, our teams have cleaned and sanitized over 1 million square feet of office space on the Pentagon reservation to CDC standards."

The telework effort has enabled more than two-thirds of the Pentagon reservation workforce to continue to deliver the mission at alternate work locations, the CMO noted.

Hershman said the "resilience plan" is based on local conditions and is not set to any specific date. The plan builds on the White House Opening Up America plan and has five phases leading to a full opening, she said. As the plan moves along, she added, if there is a resurgence in the spread of coronavirus, DOD officials will reassess the department's protection measures and workforce phase and respond appropriately.

"The plan provides phase-by-phase guidance to commanders, supervisors and employees to safely and effectively return to Pentagon reservation offices, along with guidelines for in-office and telework targets," Hershman said.