Seven US military installations restrict travel as coronavirus cases increase

In an Oct. 23, 2020 photo, Army Spc. Kevin Hamilton, Sgt. Benjamin Zawacki and Staff Sgt. James Kociencki, assigned to 105th Military Police Company, Buffalo, N.Y., check the arrival boards at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 12, 2020

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WASHINGTON — Seven U.S. military installations reinstated travel restrictions for personnel this week as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in their local areas, according to a Pentagon document released Thursday.

Seven bases reinstating travel restrictions is the highest number since mid-August. The bases are Grand Forks Air Force Base and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Tennessee, and Naval Air Station Sigonella and Naval Support Activity in Italy.

As of Monday, 147 of 231 installations, or about 64%, have lifted travel restrictions, meaning they have met specific criteria including the base’s health protection condition level being above “Charlie” and essential services are available, according to the Pentagon. Charlie means there is sustained community spread of the virus and people should expect cancellations of in-person activities such as attending classes, and plan to begin working from home, according to the Pentagon.

American military installations around the world have been slowly lifting their travel restrictions for months, peaking at 66% of bases last week, according to the Pentagon. Some installations have had to bounce back and forth between lifting restrictions and then putting them back due to the health conditions in the community. On Aug. 17, nine installations had to reinstate travel restrictions, the last time the reinstated number was higher than this week.

Travel restrictions were first put into place in March to try to prevent the spread of the virus within the Defense Department. Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memorandum May 22 that laid out the conditions needed for locations to allow for travel to and from bases. The restrictions have impacted the military moves of service members and their families during the past several months, causing backlogs during the busiest moving season for the military.

Many of the installations that have reinstated travel restrictions this week are in states or countries where coronavirus cases have been rising. North Dakota is seeing 1,296 new cases per day as of Wednesday, a 58% increase over two weeks, according to NPR. Italy has now had more than 1 million coronavirus cases in the country since the pandemic began several months ago. On Wednesday, the country reported 32,961 new cases, an increase of 70% over two weeks, according to The New York Times.

Fort Gordon, an Army post in Georgia, was the only installation to lift its travel restrictions this week.

As of Monday, there have been 62,247 military coronavirus cases, according to the Pentagon, and 769 service members have been hospitalized. Nine service members have died of the virus, mostly recent a Texas Air National Guard member.

The United States has had about 10.5 million cases of the virus and 242,310 people have died in the U.S. as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney