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Defense Department halts domestic travel in face of coronavirus

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2008
                                An aerial of the Pentagon in Washington. The U.S. Defense Department has set domestic travel curbs for personnel.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2008

    An aerial of the Pentagon in Washington. The U.S. Defense Department has set domestic travel curbs for personnel.

The Defense Department has instituted new travel restrictions for service members, civilians, and their families assigned to defense installations within the United States halting all domestic travel, including permanent changes of station, and temporary duty.

Effective Monday through May 11, the measures, including the requirement to “only take leave in the local area,” are the latest to be put in place to combat the coronavirus.

Travel exceptions may be granted for compelling cases where the travel is mission-essential, for humanitarian reasons, or warranted due to extreme hardship, the Pentagon said. Travel for medical treatment is still allowed.

Col. Tom Barrett, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said in a Facebook update today that “this is a dynamic and rapidly-changing situation,” and that policies are evolving.

“I’ll tell you — the overall goal is really to stop the spread of the virus,” he said. “You may have heard the term ‘flatten the curve,’ but that’s what we want to do. We want to stop the transmission from person to person in our communities and prevent it. So there’s going to be some extraordinary measures that are going to take place to prevent travel and movement. And it’s going to require all of us to change our behavior, change our actions to work together to prevent and really defeat the virus.”

The Army in Hawaii said there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in its ranks.

According to a 2017 count by governing.com, Hawaii had about 36,600 active duty military members, 9,400 Reserve members and about 19,000 military civilians.

“Army bases and really all bases in Hawaii are at health protection condition Alpha,” Barrett said, “and that’s based on the threat. And so what that means is there are some instances of infection on the island, but really, it’s a low-exposure risk.”

Hawaii has four confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Barrett said a topic on a lot of Army family minds is schools, and he noted that the state Department of Education has the lead.

“The decision to close schools is going to rely with the state,” he said.

Soldiers returning from travel (work or personal) in another country are being directed to stay at home for 14 days, practice social distancing, and self-monitor for potential symptoms of COVID-19 including taking their temperature twice a day, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii said.

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