Since January, when the coronavirus and COVID-19 first reached US shores, this pandemic disease has virtually shutdown life as we knew it. Across all duty stations, our military community is feeling the direct impact of coronavirus, too.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic is Impacting Your Military Life
We’re all feeling the effects of self-isolation and social distancing. But there are some unique circumstances for military troops and their families.
Troop Movements Halted by Pandemic
Military brass spent time since late January pondering just what to do about troops leaving for and returning from deployment, as well as PCS moves. On March 25, the DOD announced a halt to all overseas troop movements.
What this means is the troops scheduled to deploy or return from OCONUS deployments are officially on hold until at least May 11. Troops deployed around the world will be staying put. For units scheduled to leave, they’re staying where they are until further notice.
While this is likely welcome news for families who were getting ready to say goodbye to their loved ones, it’s been heartbreaking for those waiting for homecoming. Even with reunions days away, all movements that weren’t already actively in progress were halted.
In addition, as of March 16, there was a CONUS stop movement order issued on government-funded travel. This includes PCS orders. Service members who are anticipating or already have PCS orders should immediately contact their chain of command for further guidance.
Since PCSing is a stressful time, Move.mil has issued guidance to help troops navigate these unprecedented times.
Teleworking for Troops
Given the current pandemic, unit commanders have been given additional flexibility in allowing remote work, as possible.
Not all troops are able to telework, since some essential activities require service members to be physically present. However, teleworking options have been opened up with wide availability.
To see if your job could be handled remotely, in part or in whole, please coordinate with your immediate supervisor and chain of command.
Out-of-Area Leave Cancelled
Trips that were planned outside of your military family’s immediate local area have been canceled both by the US DOD and many state or local governments. Forty-five states have issued stay-at-home orders, in part or in whole, that prohibit leaving your home except in very specific, essential circumstances.
Troops are able to take leave, so long as they remain at or near their duty station.
Leave outside of this restrictions is cancelled, including CONUS and OCONUS travel.
DODEA, Public & Private Schools Closed
Across the US and the DODEA system, K-12 schools are closed.
Students and teachers are all transitioning to distance education, navigating this new reality together.
Families should support their child’s education by coordinating and communicating with the school and teachers.
Fitness centers at some military bases remain open, while others have been closed. This appears to be a base-by-base decision, with final approval given to base commanders.
Base commanders also have the last say about closing libraries and other on-base facilities. Commanders are consulting their branch leadership and medical professionals to make decisions. Closures will likely change as the infection spreads throughout the US.
The commissary and exchanges remain open on most, if not all, military bases. Some bases have curbside pickup options at both the PX and the commissary. Check with the management at your locations to see what’s available.
Medical & Pharmacy Services
Some military MTFs are still seeing patients for routine appointments. However, that is not the case for all clinics or specialty care providers. You should contact your provider’s office to see if your appointment is still happening.
Military pharmacies have also issued a contingency plan to guide beneficiaries and ensure medications will be filled as needed. These may include staggered pickup times and moving some patients to retail or mail-order prescriptions. As a final option, some military pharmacies may end up closing.
For TriCare beneficiaries using civilian medical providers and retail pharmacies, it’s important that you contact your healthcare team to verify their policy.
Off-Base Services & Retail
Restrictions vary by location, since policy is largely determined by state and local government officials. As noted above, 45 states are under some form of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place guidance.
In many locations, the following places are closed:
- movie theaters
- concert or music venues
- playgrounds and parks
- running and hiking trails
- shopping malls
- non-essential businesses
In addition, many restaurants have moved to takeout or delivery only.