Vaccinated sailors to have some health restrictions lifted under Navy’s new coronavirus guidance

Gas Turbine Systems Technician Chief Petty Officer Sheena Gonzalez receives the COVID-19 vaccine aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan on Feb. 13, 2021.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 16, 2021

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WASHINGTON — Ships with fully vaccinated crews will soon be able to relax some of the health protection measures put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Navy announcement issued Tuesday.

The Navy’s updated coronavirus guidance factors in immunized crews, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the virus, as well as lessons learned by the fleet during the pandemic.

“In short, fully immunized sailors will allow our Navy to begin to unwind the limitations that have been placed on our sailors at sea… The higher the percentage of the crew immunized, the less risk there is to a widespread outbreak,” according to the administrative message.

The Navy has been encouraging sailors through social media about the importance of receiving the vaccine as a means to protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus. Last month, Vice Adm. John Nowell, the chief of naval personnel, said the Navy was considering relaxing some restrictions, such as the two-week restriction of movement before a deployment, as an incentive for sailors to receive the vaccine, which is voluntary now. Last week, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis told reporters that the Navy was going to make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory as soon as possible, “just like we do with a flu vaccine.”

Sailors will continue to abide by health measures such as wearing masks, according the Navy.

Immunized sailors — people who have received two doses of the vaccine – are no longer required to undergo a 14-day restriction of movement prior to their deployment.

Sailors who have come into close contact with an infected person but have received their final vaccine dose more than two weeks prior will not have their movement restricted, but must still follow health protection measures, according to the Navy message, which is based on CDC guidelines.

Commands that have a crew with 100% immunization can immediately eliminate the 14-day restriction of movement and relax health protection measures because the threat of an outbreak is reduced, according to the Navy. These fully immunized crews can relax health protection measures after 14 days at sea if the crew is more than 1,000 people. If the crew is between 300 to 999 people, the measures can be relaxed after four days. For crews less than 300, they can relax these measures after one day.

Crews will still have to follow health protection measures such as mask wearing and social distancing if non-immunized people come onboard or when they go ashore.

Sailors on ships or military aircraft returning home with no cases in their unit in the past 14 days can count the transit time towards their post-deployment restriction of movement requirement, according to the message. Immunized sailors do not have this requirement but still must follow health protection measures.