After Secretary Austin tested positive, the Pentagon tightens COVID-19 restrictions

The Defense Department (DOD) strengthened COVID-19 regulations on Friday, citing an increase in cases across the country and days after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tested positive for the virus.

The Pentagon will decrease its occupancy restriction to 25% or less starting Jan. 10 at 5:00 a.m., while social distance will remain at 6 feet. According to two DOD memorandums, personnel, including fully vaccinated individuals, will be required to wear a mask inside unless they are alone in an office, eating or drinking, or in a variety of other situations.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks advised all managers in a memo to staff (pdf) to take advantage of as many telework and flexible scheduling options as possible.

Hicks added in the instruction, "It is my aim for you to comply with this limit to the best extent practicable." "Because we are dealing with a rapidly changing situation, the [Director of Administration and Management of the United States Department of Defense] may grant your carefully considered requests for exceptions from the occupancy rate, but they must be limited to mission-critical activities and must describe why alternatives to a higher occupancy level are unsatisfactory."

DOD staff members’ “continued diligence and adherence to occupancy limits will aid in reducing the surge of new cases,” Hicks claimed.

The Pentagon has been operating under a policy for the past several months that enables 40% of employees to work in the building while the rest telework.

7 Jan 2022

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