U.S. military bans anyone hospitalized for COVID-19 from enlisting

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In this image provided by the U.S. Army, recent Army basic combat training graduates have their temperatures taken as they arrive at Fort Lee, Va, on March 31, 2020, after being transported using sterilized buses from Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Army via AP)

CBS– The U.S. military is banning enlistment for anyone who was been hospitalized for COVID-19, a Pentagon official told CBS News’ David Martin. There is also new guidance for examining an applicant’s history with the disease during the screening process.

A Pentagon official said this is “interim guidance” that will remain at least until more is known about the damage that the virus does to the lungs.

People already in the military who are hospitalized with COVID-19 will not automatically be disqualified from further service, the official said. Depending on the lasting effects after treatments, they could return to duty or take a less physically demanding job. Recruits with more severe effects will go before a medical board to determine if they can continue serving.

U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command issued a memo this week detailing new procedures for applicants during the coronavirus pandemic. The memo, first reported by the Military Times, says that during the prescreen process, an applicant’s reported history of confirmed COVID-19 “will be annotated as ‘Considered Disqualifying.'”

The memo initially said that a confirmed history of COVID-19 from a lab test or clinical diagnosis would be “permanently disqualifying.” But the guidance has since been updated to allow recruitment of people who weren’t hospitalized. 

The 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations across the country will take temperatures and ask questions about symptoms and potential contact with the disease. An applicant who fails screening will not be tested, but can return in 14 days if they do not show COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 must wait 28 days after diagnosis before reporting to a processing station.

Potential recruits can apply for waivers for any disqualifying medical condition, but the memo does not give guidance for what would  lead to an exemption for someone diagnosed with COVID-19. 

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