Pentagon considers cutting coronavirus quarantines to 10 days

Pentagon considers cutting coronavirus quarantines to 10 days
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The Pentagon is considering shortening the amount of time troops potentially exposed to the coronavirus must spend in quarantine, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDuckworth to block military confirmations until Esper proves Vindman will be promoted House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal House panel votes to ban Confederate flag at Pentagon property MORE said Thursday.

Speaking at a virtual town hall, Esper said Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci warns new coronavirus mutation may cause virus to spread more easily GOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response Overnight Health Care: Experts fear July 4 weekend will exacerbate coronavirus spread | Texas Gov. Abbott will require masks in most of the state | Fauci warns: 'We are not going in the right direction' MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, recently recommended the Pentagon cut its quarantine time from 14 days to 10 days.

“What we’re looking at now is, how can we adjust our policies and practices, because one of the things we’ve learned over the past few months is that we have a generally younger, healthier, fitter force that is able to withstand the coronavirus,” Esper said, citing one active-duty death from the virus out of thousands of cases.

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In addition to the active-duty sailor, a National Guardsman and a reservist have also died.

Citing Fauci and Birx, Esper added “the risk level is not that much higher between” a 10-day quarantine and a 14-day quarantine “for our population.”

Esper was responding to a question from a military spouse, who said her husband has been quarantined twice and tested negative for the virus three times while on a deployment in Afghanistan, about whether the military’s current quarantine policy is “sustainable.”

The reexamination of quarantine length marks the latest example of how the Pentagon is seeking to balance maintaining its missions with keeping troops healthy as it prepares to live with the coronavirus at least until a vaccine is developed.

The Pentagon this week also laid out guidance on how, depending on local conditions, bases can begin returning to normal operations and travel restrictions can be lifted.

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Officials also revealed at Thursday’s town hall that U.S. service members would be tested for coronavirus antibodies.

On shortening the quarantine length, Esper also cited increased capacity for diagnostic testing.

"We want to make sure we are not keeping our deployed service members cooped up in quarantine all the time," Esper said. "We want them to be out there doing their job, exercising their skills. But priority No. 1 still comes back to protecting the force, protecting the individual."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley added that the Pentagon is "looking very seriously" at reducing the quarantine time to 10 days, arguing that would catch nearly all cases.

"Somewhere in the 5 to 6 days is the normal incubation period," he said. "So if you isolate for 10, you're going to get 98, 99 percent, perhaps, probability that if the person tests negative at the end of that, then they don't have it. So it comes down to a function of risk and protecting the force."