The Navy has unveiled its latest plans for deploying in the midst of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Before a unit can deploy, its members will undergo a host of medical screening and quarantine measures, per the new guidance issued Wednesday.
That includes personnel being sequestered — in barracks, hotel rooms, ship berthing or sometimes personal residences — for a minimum of 14 days before they leave port.
Screening will also consist of a coronavirus exposure history assessment, temperature and symptoms checks, a review of any past COVID-19 testing and evaluation of a member’s risk factors.
Navy officials said testing is not a surefire way to prevent the virus from gaining traction on board, due to the potential for false negatives.
“While testing is the only way to uncover asymptomatic individuals, it does not guarantee a deploying unit is COVID-free,” officials wrote in a news release. “Public health mitigation measures, like social distancing, deep cleaning and face coverings, will still be followed to reduce the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak once the unit is deployed.”
The Navy has been the hardest hit by coronavirus of the nation’s military branches, with nearly 2,400 cases among its ranks, according to Military.com.
Many of those were aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam. A fifth of the ship’s crew tested positive for the virus, including several who were cleared to return after quarantine and then tested positive a second time. A chief petty officer died in April.
The Navy’s new guidelines are expected to be in place “for a lengthy period,” according to the statement Wednesday.
Immediate supervisors must approve deploying those who are determined to be high-risk.
The new measures also apply to any ship riders, direct support personnel and all others “penetrating an established clean bubble,” the Navy said.
The plan relies on personnel to wear face coverings, properly physical distance, self-monitor and wash their hands frequently while underway.
“Personal responsibility and disciplined organizational public health protection measures are the bedrock of risk reduction and risk mitigation,” Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham said in the statement.
“We will continue to update our guidance as our understanding of COVID-19 evolves,” Navy officials wrote. “This will pose challenges for our people and their families.”
More detailed guidance is available on the Navy’s website.
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