DOD issues guidance to base commanders on returning to normal operations

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia)

Defense Secretary Esper has updated guidance to commanders on changing local Force Health Protection Condition (HPCON) levels to allow bases to begin planning to return to normal operations in the COVID environment.

The guidance can be found here.

This guidance sets the considerations and processes for commanders who are seeking to adjust their local HPCON levels in a manner that will continue to protect our personnel from further spread of COVID-19 and preserve the operational readiness of our global force.

Under this guidance, commanders make deliberate, risk-based decisions to change HPCON levels as conditions allow.  Commanders will take into consideration guidance from the CDC; collaboration with state, territorial and local health authorities; and advice from the command Public Health Emergency Officer and local Military Treatment Facility (MTF).

Importantly, commanders will ensure the following gating criteria for lowering HPCON levels are met before proceeding with a change:

  • Downward trajectory of reported cases of influenza-like and COVID-like illnesses over the preceding 14-day period.
  • Downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases or of positive tests as a percent of total tests over the preceding 14-day period.
  • Military MTFs or local hospitals have the capacity to treat patients and have an adequate diagnostic COVID-19 testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers and those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

The commanders will also ensure that comprehensive health surveillance processes are in place to monitor COVID-like illnesses and provide surveillance laboratory testing.

The guidance outlines gating criteria that are consistent with the administration’s “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.”  Commanders will at all times retain the inherent authority to increase their HPCON levels as necessary.