Pentagon drops policy banning those who had COVID-19 from enlisting


The Defense Department is reverting to existing regulations on recruiting people who have had an infectious disease.

The Pentagon said Thursday that it has rescinded a policy that banned the enlistment of recruits who have been hospitalized for the coronavirus until they got a special waiver.

Matthew Donovan, the undersecretary for defense personnel, told Pentagon reporters that such individuals will now be treated on a case-by-case basis, much like the military treats potential recruits with other infectious diseases or conditions such as asthma.

In an early May memo, the Pentagon had said that applicants who have tested positive for the virus but did not require hospitalization will be allowed to enlist, as long as all health and other requirements are met. But anyone who had been hospitalized with the virus may have longer-term physical limitations. So those people would be considered "permanently disqualified" and would have to request a waiver from the military service they want to enter.

That requirement regarding hospitalized applicants has now been shelved. And the Pentagon is simply reverting to previously existing regulations that govern how recruiting centers deal with anyone who has had an infectious disease.

Donovan said that any potential recruit who comes in and is showing symptoms will be referred to their medical provider and told to come back when they are COVID-free. If an applicant was hospitalized, they would go through additional screening and possibly other health tests, and they could be required to get a waiver in some cases.

Anyone who has tested positive for the virus must wait 28 days before trying to enlist.

Some patients hospitalized with the virus have suffered lung damage. Long-term lung damage could hinder recruits from passing grueling physical requirements for military services.