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The US military is barring anyone who was hospitalized due to COVID-19 from enlisting

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/7/2020 insider@insider.com (Rosie Perper,Ryan Pickrell)
a man wearing a military uniform: Pool/Getty Images © Pool/Getty Images Pool/Getty Images
  • A military recruitment memo sent out by the US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) stated that individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to join the military — even after they recover.
  • According to the memo, which was widely circulating on social media and was first reported on by Military Times on Wednesday, new recruits with a confirmed diagnosis will be "permanently disqualified" from enlisting.
  • A defense official told Insider that the memo was "interim" guidance that was updated Wednesday. The updated guidance says that only those who were hospitalized following a COVID-19 diagnosis will be barred from enlisting.
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New guidance from the US military will bar individuals who have been hospitalized by COVID-19 from enlisting, a defense official told Insider, clarifying the situation after a memo with interim guidance suggesting that anyone who at any point had the virus would be disqualified from military service surfaced online.

The initial guidance, a military recruitment memo from US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) circulating on social media and first reported on by Military Times on Wednesday, said that a COVID-19 diagnosis, even after recovery, would be considered disqualifying.

The memo stated that all 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) across the country will medically evaluate all potential recruits, who will be required to have their temperature taken and complete a screening survey.

The document says that "a reported history of confirmed COVID-19 will be annotated as 'Considered Disqualifying'" and documented on their medical report. It adds that during the medical history interview or examination part of their application, "a history of COVID-19 confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying."

A defense official told Insider Thursday that the memo, while real, was "interim guidance" that was updated Wednesday.

The official, citing the new guidance, explained that "individuals diagnosed or confirmed with COVID-19 but not hospitalized are medically qualified to process for accession 28 days following home isolation," but those "individuals diagnosed or confirmed with COVID-19 and hospitalized are medically disqualified for accession, subject to further review of hospitalization/comorbidity records, and waiver by a Service Medical Waiver Authority."

The new policy does not apply to individuals who are already members of the military and have contracted the coronavirus, such as the hundreds of sailors aboard the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt who fell ill, sidelining the carrier in Guam.

As of Friday, 5,171 active-duty military personnel have tested positive for COVID-19. Of that number, 114 have been hospitalized. To date, 1,978 service members have recovered.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect the US military updated its guidance to only disqualify people who had been hospitalized due to COVID-19.

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