Pentagon Officials Tight-Lipped About Where Stop-Movement Orders Will Be Lifted

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Traveling under COVID-19 restrictions
Recently graduated Fort Jackson soldiers prepare to depart Columbia Metropolitan Airport on April 24, 2020, en route to their Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office courtesy photo

The Defense Department held off Wednesday on announcing locations where COVID-19 stop-movement restrictions have been lifted and travel can resume without a waiver or exception.

Pentagon officials had said at a briefing Tuesday that a classified list of locations that could "go green" was being prepared for internal distribution and might be ready for release Wednesday. But a spokeswoman said late Wednesday that details still needed to be worked out.

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At the Pentagon briefing Tuesday, officials said a phased plan for lifting restrictions for uniformed and civilian Defense Department personnel worldwide is being initiated. But they cautioned that the plan is contingent upon local conditions showing a downward trend in novel coronavirus cases.

The officials also said that DoD actions would be guided by the White House's "Opening Up America Again" initiative and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The White House plan calls for the removal of local shelter-in-place orders and for restrictions to be lifted when localities see 14-day downward trends in new virus cases or positive tests.

Under those conditions, Matt Donovan, the DoD's under secretary for Personnel and Readiness, said at the briefing Tuesday that an unspecified number of locations could "go green, if you will, immediately."

He said a list of locations might be released as early as Wednesday. If not Wednesday, then "I don't think it would be a problem once a week" to have a list released, he said, but did not give a timeline for when weekly lists might be published.

The service secretaries will have the final say on lifting restrictions based on input from installation commanders, guided by criteria including the removal of local travel restrictions; the availability of essential services such as schools and child care; and the ability to treat and test personnel, Donovan said.

"So, it depends," he said, "on which region, or state, or host nation you're talking about, because they're all varied conditions."

The stop-movement restrictions on government-funded travel for all DoD personnel remain in place, unless waivers or exemptions are granted, according to a memorandum Tuesday from Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The restrictions also apply to travel "on personal leave outside the local area and non-official travel outside the local area," the memorandum states.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related: Military Stop-Movement Orders to Be Lifted Immediately at Some Bases

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