Military Update: Coronavirus Cancellations and Closures

test for COVID-19 infections in New Rochelle
A medical professional, supported by New York Army National Guard members, collect swabs to test for COVID-19 infections in New Rochelle, N.Y., March 15, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Sean Madden)

This story was last updated March 17.

As guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes by the day regarding risk mitigation and containment of the deadly coronavirus, the U.S. military has responded aggressively, prohibiting all but essential travel to international and domestic locations and canceling or postponing major exercises that were months in planning.

Stay up to date on closures, cancellations and other military guidance affecting operations and work requirements with our list below, updated daily.

Cancellations and Cutbacks

  • Exercise African Lion 2020

On March 16, U.S. Africa Command officials announced that the joint exercise, set to run March 23-April 4 across locations in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, had been fully canceled in light of international travel restrictions. The command had previously announced plans to scale back the training to protect against virus exposure. The exercise was set to include some 3,800 U.S. troops and the participation of a dozen partner nations.

  • Exercise Phoenix Express 20

A smaller AFRICOM multinational maritime exercise set to take place April 5-18 in the Mediterranean Sea, Phoenix Express was canceled March 17 "for force protection reasons."

  • Exercise Defender-Europe 2020

Also March 16, U.S. European Command announced that Defender-Europe 2020, originally set to be the biggest U.S. deployment for an exercise in 25 years, was being dramatically modified, with the cancellation of linked exercises Exercise Defender-Europe 20 -- Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response. Personnel and equipment stopped deploying from the United States on March 13, officials said. Some 6,000 troops, of the original 20,000 planned, had already deployed to Europe. Those who deployed for canceled exercise elements will return to the U.S., while elements of the deployed armored brigade combat team will conduct "gunnery and other combined training events with allies" in a modified exercise.

  • Operation Cold Response 2020

On March 10, military officials pulled the plug on Operation Cold Response, an Arctic exercise in Norway that had begun two days prior. That came after nearly two dozen U.S. soldiers, of the approximately 1,500 U.S. personnel participating in the exercise, were taken into quarantine isolation after coming into contact with a Norwegian service member who tested positive for coronavirus.

  • Juniper Cobra 20

This U.S.-Israeli missile defense exercise began March 3 and was set to run through March 15, but was canceled instead March 5 as the host nation implemented travel restrictions to control spread of the virus. About 700 U.S. personnel were participating in that exercise.

  • Joint Korea-U.S. military drills

The U.S. and South Korea postponed their planned annual military training Feb. 26 as Korean COVID-19 cases began to surge. Officials had originally said they were only looking to scale back the training.

  • Reserve drilling

The Navy has postponed all regular drill weekends through May 11 in accordance with CDC guidance, although Navy Reserve Activities locations will remain open for mission-essential drill requirements. "Reservists may complete drills via flexible reschedules, telework, and liberal authorized absences as directed by their unit leadership and supported command," Navy officials said March 15. The Marine Corps Reserve announced March 16 that it was also canceling drilling until further notice.

The Air Force has canceled all strategic outreach activities and support to community events through May 15, including air shows and U.S. Thunderbirds demonstrations.


  • Military museums

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, closed indefinitely March 14, but is offering virtual tours of collections online. All U.S. Navy museums followed suit March 15, announcing they would remain closed until March 31 as a precautionary measure. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force also announced that day that it was closing indefinitely, but will offer virtual tours.

  • Military academies

The Air Force Academy in Colorado announced March 13 it would dismiss students without a clear return date as a precautionary measure. The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, is closed to visitors as of March 17. The academy earlier announced that it would delay reforming the Brigade of Midshipmen to continue classes until March 28. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is also delaying the return of cadets from spring break until March 29 and has been closed to outside visitors since March 13.


  • Boot camp and basic training graduations

While training still continues at military basic training locations and recruit depots, the events now take place without families in attendance. The Air Force blocked families from attending recruit training graduations March 10 and later revoked planned liberty for newly graduated airmen, sending them direct to new duty stations instead. The Navy took similar steps to bar family attendance and cancel recruit liberty at its boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. The Marine Corps and Army followed suit the same week, also canceling planned family day celebrations.

  • Joint Base Andrews

The Maryland base declared a "public health emergency" March 16, noting that there is one presumptive positive COVID-19 case involving a military dependent. Base movement is restricted and services are limited while the condition is in place.

  • Arlington National Cemetery

The cemetery announced March 12 it will close to visitors, although planned funeral services will continue.

  • Pentagon access

The Pentagon has sharply restricted access to the building, announcing March 14 that foreign visitors, those without a pass and anyone without official business would not be permitted into the building. Only mission-essential personnel are being told to report into the building, and telework is strongly encouraged.

  • International travel

A 60-day ban on troop travel to locations designated "Level 3" by the CDC took effect March 13, and applies to leave, permanent change-of-station moves, temporary duty and any travel not deemed mission-essential by the relevant commander. As of March 17, that list included much of Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland, China, South Korea and Iran. Travel to locations designated "Level 2" by the CDC -- now a global designation -- was also severely limited for military family members and civilian personnel accompanying troops, and hiring was paused for civilians pending hiring decisions in these countries.

  • Domestic travel

On March 14, the Defense Department instituted a sweeping ban on all domestic travel, including PCS moves and temporary duty, in efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus. The ban does give local commanders broad authority to make exceptions if they determine travel to be mission-essential or warranted due to humanitarian reasons or great hardship.

Eased or Lifted

  • Operational Pause

Marine Corps Installations East has lifted a one-day operational pause begun March 16 to assess protective measures taken to curb COVID-19 exposure. The command, which oversees all East Coast Marine Corps bases, has resumed limited mission-essential operations, although gyms have been closed and major gatherings called off.

  • Travel restrictions

DoD personnel in Cheonan, South Korea, near Camp Humphreys, are being told to check in with their commands on reporting back to work as severe travel restrictions are eased, a sign that the disease outbreak is abating. "We are winning!" U.S. Army Garrison Daegu tweeted, noting that the number of new cases was shrinking.

Know of a restriction or closure that’s not on the list? Email Hope Seck at This list will be updated regularly.

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