An earlier version of this article was updated to reflect new guidance from the Military Entrance Processing Command.

The U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) has declared that those who have tested positive and been hospitalized for COVID-19 will not be allowed to enlist in the Armed Forces of the United States.

A one-page interim memo noting that anyone diagnosed with the coronavirus be disqualified began circulating via social networks. Ever wary of a bogus posting, the memo was initially viewed with great suspicion.

According to the Military Times, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell confirmed the authenticity of the memo, which is indicated as interim guidance. Quickly updated guidance was provided to Military Times which noted only those who had been hospitalized for the virus would be prevented from enlisting.

The memo was pushed out to all 65 processing centers so as to provide interim guidance with respect to how to handle volunteers who are currently in various stages of processing into the armed services. The memo outlined procedure for handling the COVID-19 issue with applicants.

  1. Applicants who fail initial screening (temperature check and symptoms questionnaire)
  2. Applicants who are 28-day post-diagnostic may return.
  3. Documenting “Considered Disqualifying”
  4. Documenting “Permanently Disqualifying”

The coronavirus is ubiquitous throughout the United States with more than 1.2 million persons having tested positive. From the military’s optic, testing for COVID-19 will be key, as evidenced by the recent discoveries of COVID at two basic training centers.

Fort Jackson, SC discovered 50 cases of the coronavirus within a training battalion. Army Chief of Staff General James McConville noted the need to shift from screening to testing. “Even those who we tested after we had one or two positive cases, the ones we found out, were mostly asymptomatic. So they weren’t showing symptoms. That’s why the testing becomes very, very important, especially with the younger population.”

Testing at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego identified 40+ recruits who tested positive for COVID-19. Captain Martin Harris, spokesman for the depot said, “This increase in testing is possible because of the overwhelming Naval Medical support to recruit training and an increased testing capability, which we have implemented to ensure recruits are healthy before they being their training.”

Currently, all recruits are being tested for COVID-19 before training is initiated. The Army noted that recruits arriving at Fort Jackson are being isolated for the first 14 days, and tested prior to initiation of training.

The guidance, characterized as interim, no doubt will continue to morph, as more becomes known about the long term effects to vital organs (lungs, heart, etc.) caused by COVID-19. Current guidance hasn’t identified any exceptions dealing with COVID-19, and thus waivers are not being granted, lacking justification.

Guidance on re-enlistments for those who contract COVID-19 while on active or reserve is no doubt a matter of discussion within the Pentagon.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of