Pentagon: Anyone hospitalized for coronavirus 'disqualified' from joining military without waiver

Lt. Col. Jacob White, commander of 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, talks with E Company Soldiers after they received cloth face coverings from Combat Capabilities Development Command - Soldier Center in Natick, Massachusetts. (Photo: Markeith

Coronavirus survivors will be barred from entering the military unless they are granted a waiver from the branch they are seeking to join, a defense official told Fox News, as the agency continues to figure out how to train America's fighting force in the midst of a global pandemic.

“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying ...,” reads a memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) found circulating online.

Specific guidance was sent to staff on how to deal with COVID-19 cases, beginning with an initial screening at 65 Military Entry Processing (MEPS) stations.

If an applicant fails MEPS screening for COVID-19, but without a laboratory or clinician diagnosis, they can return to continue processing after 14 days if they do not exhibit symptoms, according to the directive, which was first reported by the Military Times. Applicants typically have their temperature taken and are asked about potential symptoms and contact during initial screening.

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“During the screening process, a reported history of confirmed COVID-19 will be annotated ‘Considered disqualifying,'" the memo reads.

Anyone diagnosed with the virus, will be forced to wait 28 days after the diagnosis date before they can report back to MEPS. The diagnosis will be deemed permanently disqualifying.

Messages to the Pentagon from Fox News were not returned Wednesday. The Washington Times reported that applicants can request a waiver, but it was unclear how many would be granted.

Related: 29 service members awarded Purple Hearts for brain injuries in Iran attack

More than 4,000 U.S. troops have tested positive for COVID-19, the Times reported. The Army resumed basic training last month after a two-week pause, even as clusters of COVID-19 cases have been discovered. The Marine Corps recently temporarily suspended its physical fitness training and halting shipments of recruits to its depot in Parris Island, S.C., in March.

Meanwhile, the Navy is opening an investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Nearly 1,000 crew members tested positive for the virus and 1,700 remain in Guam in recovery or quarantine.

Related: Acting Navy boss submits resignation amid coronavirus uproar

The outbreak and conditions aboard the ship resulted in the commander being fired after speaking publicly about the matter and the resignation of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.

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