Pentagon Issues Guidance to Troops as Coronavirus Continues to Spread

January 31, 2020 Updated: January 31, 2020

The Department of Defense issued guidance to troops about the Novel Coronavirus spreading around the world, it said on Friday.

“I approved a directive apprising our forces about precautions they should take, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the virus,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.

“The Department of Defense continues to work closely with our interagency partners as we monitor the situation and protect our service members and their families, which is my highest priority.”

Troops should take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs and take medicine if prescribed, the guidance (pdf) stated. Actions include washing hands often, avoiding touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with those who are sick.

Pentagon personnel who recently returned from China in the past 14 days or had close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus and feel sick with a fever, coughing, or having difficulty breathing should immediately seek medical care but should call ahead so preparations can be made by the medical facility they’re going to, the guidance stated.

Esper said at a press conference on Thursday that there would probably be at least one more directive issued to troops.

“Force protection for our service members, our civilians and their families is a priority. So we want to make sure we stay in front of it with regard to information and other precautions that would be taken,” he said.

“I know the INDOPACOM (United States Indo-Pacific) Command will also be taking measures given that this virus is emanating from that theater so they will be providing additive information as well.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper addresses the media at U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida, on Jan. 23, 2020. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The entrance to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. on Jan. 29, 2020. (Matt Hartman/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier in the week, the Department of Defense said it was providing housing at the March Air Reserve Base in Southern California for approximately 195 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus.

“Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for all care of the evacuees, and DoD personnel will not be directly in contact with the evacuees and evacuees will not have access to any base location other than their assigned housing,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital. DOD will work closely with our interagency partners and continue to monitor the situation. The Department’s primary responsibility at this time is the safety of our force, our families, and our base communities.”

All of the evacuees were being quarantined so officials could continue isolating them and monitoring for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The State Department raised the travel advisory for China on Thursday to level four, the highest.

“Do not travel,” the advisory stated. Previously, people were told to avoid nonessential travel to Hubei Province and told to take precautions when traveling to other parts of China.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared a public health emergency of international concern over the coronavirus, which has spread to countries across the world but caused no deaths outside of China as of yet.

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