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Department of Defense revises several Force Health Protection measures

Picture of military personnel wearing face masks walking into an aircraft Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron walk into a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 2. Department of Defense guidance says masks are to be worn on DOD transportation assets and at DOD hubs (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Karol, 86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs).

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In line with recent updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense has revised several Force Health Protection measures. The measures include guidance on quarantine and testing for DOD personnel and close contacts who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, deployment and redeployment guidance, reaffirmation of DOD mask use, and additional updated guidance focusing on protecting all DOD personnel.

Dr. Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the changes to DOD/Military Health System policy not only align with the White House and CDC, but also serve as one more step back to normalcy.

"These Force Health Protection changes demonstrate our continued commitment to our 9.6 million beneficiaries, and to maintaining a medically ready force," said Adirim. "These FHPs demonstrate the DOD's continued effort in battling COVID-19, while ensuring our service members are prepared to defend the nation.

The measures are as follows:

Force Health Protection 15 - Focusing on testing, the biggest change in this guidance is related to quarantine and associated testing requirements for vaccinated close contacts who meet CDC criteria.

"When the close contact is an individual vaccinated with a Food and Drug Administration-authorized COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use authorization, quarantine and testing for close contacts is not required if the individual is fully vaccinated and up-to-date with the latest vaccine guidance, and has remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure," explained Army Col. (Dr.) Jennifer Kishimori, director of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear medical countermeasures policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

FHP 16 - Focuses on deploying and redeploying personnel with an added exception for testing prior to air travel from the United States to a foreign country. The exception is based on previous full recovery from COVID-19 infection.

This measure also adds an assessment of prior COVID-19 infection and vaccination status to the DOD pre-travel screening process and clarifies that the head of an Office of the Secretary of Defense component or the secretary of the Military Department may, if host nation agreements allow, decrease restriction of movement.

There is also an added requirement for pre-travel testing prior to arrival in the United States for redeployment from a foreign country and added exceptions to pre-travel testing based on CDC allowance for travelers on military airlift and for those who have fully recovered from COVID-19.

FHP 17 - Reaffirms DOD mask use guidance consistent with CDC guidelines, including wearing masks on DOD transportation assets and at DOD hubs.

FHP 18 - Includes significant changes that focus on commanders and supervisors protecting personnel in workplaces including:

  • Improved guidance for providing safe workplaces and work schedules with a primary focus on maintaining safe distancing between personnel.
  • Clarification of the procedures for DOD personnel with COVID-19 symptoms and for personnel exposed to COVID-19 from “close contact” with individuals who have contracted COVID-19.
  • Updates to information collection requirements for COVID-19-positive personnel in the workplace.

"The Military Health System will continue to provide our service members and military commanders with appropriate force health protection guidance to ensure they have the most current information during this global pandemic," added Adirim. "The latest Force Health Protection guidance provides our service members and frontline commanders with the most current information during this global pandemic and will continue to evolve as more Americans receive the vaccine," she said.

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