Pentagon Updates COVID-19 Quarantine, Isolation Rules

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a senior reporter for the Epoch Times. She covers U.S. news and world news. Contact her at
January 8, 2022Updated: January 8, 2022

The Department of Defense updated its guidance for troops, as well as civilians and contractors, regarding its policy for COVID-19 quarantine and isolation.

The new rules largely align with recently issued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and were released days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for the virus while on leave at home.

The Pentagon memorandum (pdf) released on Friday said those who have signs or symptoms “consistent with COVID-19” such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, are expected to let their commander or supervisor know and stay home.

Those who end up testing positive for COVID-19 must stay out of the workplace for at least five days, Gilbert Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, stipulated in the memo.

Pentagon personnel can return to work after that only if they have no symptoms or are not feverish for more than 24 hours and their symptoms are resolving. Those returning to work must wear a mask in the workplace for another five days, “even in circumstances in which mask wearing is not required by any other DoD guidance,” Cisneros wrote.

Another group that must remain out of the workplace for five days are asymptomatic personnel who have had “potential exposure to COVID-19 based on a close contact” who is unvaccinated or has not had a COVID-19 booster shot beyond the recommended booster interval.

“Regardless of vaccination status, asymptomatic personnel with potential exposure to COVID-19 based on close contact must wear a mask in the workplace for 10 days from the date of their last close contact (i.e., day 0) with someone with COVID-19,” according to the guidance.

A previous Pentagon guidance (pdf) dated Dec. 30, 2021, said that this group should, “if practical, test on day 3–5 following exposure,” and if symptoms develop, they “must get tested and isolate until test results are complete.”

A close contact is someone who spent 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, within 6 feet of a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19, up to two days before symptoms started or when they tested positive. The definition of a close contact disregards whether either person was wearing a mask.

Exemptions can be granted for “mission-essential activities” that have to be conducted on site, provided these people remain asymptomatic, test negative for COVID-19, and adhere to specific practices that include taking a COVID-19 test on day 5 since exposure, getting daily temperature checks, and wear a mask in the workplace for 10 days after potential exposure.

“Vaccination status of the individual should be considered in granting an exception, as more risk will be assumed in granting an exception for an unvaccinated individual,” reads the memo. ” If the individual develops signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the duty period, he/she will be sent home immediately.”

The Pentagon on Friday also tightened its restrictions, citing in part a rise in positive COVID-19 case counts amid the spread of the highly contagious, although less severe, Omicron variant. Starting Jan. 10, the Pentagon said its occupancy limit will be capped at 25 percent or fewer, and everyone must wear a mask indoors, barring certain circumstances such as when they are alone in an office, or eating or drinking.