Pentagon Issues New Policy on Makeshift Face Coverings

Pentagon Issues New Policy on Makeshift Face Coverings
Maj. Dennis Kirkland, Guam National Guard state chaplain, greets soldiers preparing to process through medical and customs checks at the GUNG readiness center after arriving on the island, on April 5, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by JoAnna Delfin)
Simon Veazey

The Pentagon is ordering that all military personnel must wear makeshift face coverings, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public guidelines, if they need to work closer to each other than 6 feet of "social distancing."

"Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD [Department of Defense] property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers," states the official memo (pdf), which was made public April 6.

The new guidelines apply to all military personnel, civilian employees, family members, contractors, and all other people on DoD property. They don't apply to the homes of service members or their families that are located on military installations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 4 recommended that all Americans should start to wear cloth face coverings in public settings. The face coverings aim to block the wearer from unwittingly spreading the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly referred to as novel coronavirus.

Each department will provide further detailed guidance for its service members, the Pentagon said.

"As an interim measure, all individuals are encouraged to fashion face coverings from household items or common materials, such as clean T-shirts or other clean cloths that can cover the nose and mouth area."

The Department of Defense says it won't issue personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators or surgical masks "as these will be reserved for the appropriate personnel."

"The Department will continue to implement force protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to our total force and their families, and the American people," according to the statement.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said throughout the pandemic that 6 feet of social distancing is hard to achieve in some situations and that the military has to remain ready to carry out national security missions.

"We can't always do 6-feet distancing, whether you're in an attack submarine, a bomber, in a tank," he said on ABC's "This Week" on April 5.

"So we have to take other measures. And I trust the commanders and our senior NCOs to do that. But we want to provide them all the guidance they need to adjust it, in whatever is unique to their situation, their circumstance, or their mission set."

 A woman wears a stars and stripes bandana for a face mask amid COVID-19 fears in Washington on April 2, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
A woman wears a stars and stripes bandana for a face mask amid COVID-19 fears in Washington on April 2, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The CDC's recommendation followed new evidence that COVID-19 can be spread by people before they display symptoms. The face covering is not to protect the wearer, but to keep them from inadvertently spreading the virus before they know they have it.

The agency urged people to use cloth face coverings in places where social distancing measures are challenging to maintain, including grocery stores and pharmacies, and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.