Citing 'Current Trends,' Coast Guard Lifts Almost All Travel Restrictions for Troops

USCGC Stone South Atlantic
USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) patrols high seas observing fishing activity to support Operation Southern Cross in the South Atlantic, Feb. 6, 2021.(John Hightower/U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard has lifted most travel restrictions to "pre-pandemic status," according to a service-wide message issued Wednesday.

Citing "current trends of the pandemic combined with the national vaccination effort," Coasties are free to move about the country, based on their vaccination status and COVID-19 conditions at their destinations.

Service members still must adhere to local restrictions and guidelines when not engaging in official travel, according to ALCOAST 096/21, but they are able to take domestic leave and leisure activity without fear of breaking Coast Guard-wide rules.

"All personnel must be aware of changing conditions in locations they intend to travel to and through when making travel decisions," the message states.

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The new guidance also allows for foreign leave and leisure travel, but personnel must get command endorsement and approval from the first flag officer or senior executive service employee in their chain of command.

The change in travel status within the Coast Guard differs markedly from the other military services, which are adhering to guidance established by the Defense Department and military services based on local conditions.

More than half of the 231 DoD installations -- 51% -- have lifted constraints, up from a low this year of 37% the first week of February. The Marine Corps has lifted restrictions at 88% of its installations; the Air Force, 73%; and the Army, 53%. The Navy has lifted travel restrictions at just seven of its 62 bases, or 11%.

Before an installation's travel restrictions can be lifted, the state or country in which it is located must show a 14-day declining trend in symptoms and cases of COVID-19, and there can be no stay-at-home order in place.

The installation then must meet additional criteria, including a health protection condition level of Charlie or below. Essential services must also be available.

Once those first steps are met, a senior leader, such as a chief management officer, service secretary or combatant commander can approve lifting travel restrictions.

Americans are currently barred from traveling to most overseas locations, including much of Europe. However, more than 70 countries allow Americans entry with various levels of testing requirements and quarantine restrictions.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to discourage persons from traveling, it maintains an information page on travel, including guidance and information on destination countries.

Any U.S. citizen over age 2 is required to have a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous three days before returning to the U.S.

Regarding permanent change of station moves, nearly all Coast Guard moves are likely to be "good to go" for the 2021 PCS season, with all household goods shipments authorized, according to a service press release from late January.

"The Coast Guard is optimistic that the 2021 PCS season will go smoothly," the release states.

The Coast Guard is actively encouraging members to take leave during their PCS periods and last month authorized administrative absence for Coasties serving on major cutters "to promote wellness and rejuvenation" among those who deployed and were restricted to their ships before deploying as well as during port calls.

According to a message issued March 4, commanding officers are allowed to approve up to 15 days of "resiliency absence" for their permanently assigned personnel. The leave is not to be used in conjunction with a PCS move or to house hunt, the message stipulates.

-- Stephen Losey contributed to this report.

Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime

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