The Pentagon is working on a policy that would have permanently disqualified those diagnosed with COVID-19 from joining the armed forces.
Earlier this week, a military memo stated that those “with a history” of COVID-19—meaning a positive diagnosis—were barred for life from joining the military.
The original memo was posted to social media on May 6:
The memo outlined new procedures for Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), locations across the country that process potential recruits for the U.S. armed services. Under the guidelines, MEPS across the country would screen all newcomers for COVID-19 upon arrival. The screening, Military Times explains, would consist of “taking a temperature and answering questions about symptoms and potential contact.”
If a potential recruit failed the screening, they would have had to go home but could return to MEPS again in fourteen days for another screening–if they didn’t have symptoms. A COVID-19 diagnosis at any point in a person’s life would be “permanently disqualifying” for military service.
The memo prompted howls of disbelief on social media. As of May 24, the U.S. has had 1,666,829 COVD-19 cases, with 446,927 persons recovered. That number is expected to grow, and some scientists believe the pandemic could stretch well into 2022.
The day after the memo was released the Pentagon announced new guidelines. The new rules allow those with a COVID-19 diagnosis in their past to enlist so long as they were not admitted to the hospital. This is a much more reasonable policy, giving survivors a chance to enlist while barring those that experienced complications, which could include lung and other forms of organ damage.