Pentagon orders military bases to stop releasing specific COVID-19 numbers

The Pentagon has ordered military bases and combatant commands to withhold coronavirus case numbers, citing operational security concerns.

“As we continue to grapple with the novel nature of COVID19, we are constantly assessing and adapting not only how we respond to combatting the virus, but also how we share critical public health information with our communities,” Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement on Monday.

“We will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands. We will continue to do our best to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security.”

Farah said that the Defense Department and each military service will continue to offer a daily, public update of the full number of cases in all services and of civilians, contractors and dependents. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week told Reuters that he wants the Pentagon to withhold “mission-specific information” to protect operational security.

“What we want to do is give you aggregated numbers. But we’re not going to disaggregate numbers because it could reveal information about where we may be affected at a higher rate than maybe some other places,” Esper said. 

And Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly last week told reporters that his service was “trying to be as responsive and transparent as possible” but must weigh that “against operational concerns as well as privacy concerns.”

“I think it’s important that people understand where we are, how it’s impacting us,” Modly said of coronavirus cases in the Navy. “So we will follow the direction of the secretary of defense in terms of this, but from our perspective, from my perspective, being as transparent as possible is probably the best path.”

As of Monday morning, 569 active-duty service members have contracted the illness, as had 220 civilian personnel, 190 family members and 64 contractors. 

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