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US military considers COVID-19 diagnosis or hospitalization ‘permanently disqualifying’ for recruits, memo states

Spc. Latorris Thomas, Senior Airman Serena Nicholas and Airman first class Akira Tanton of the Illinois National Guard check patient names multiple times as they prepare to administer a coronavirus test to a first responder in a vehicle Thursday, March 26, 2020 on the Northwest Side. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying…”

That’s a snippet from a memo issued last week by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command. It appears to state that anyone who has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus illness cannot join the military — even if he or she has completely recovered.

The memo, which directs all U.S. Military Entrance Processing Stations to take the temperature of recruits and ask them questions about COVID-19 symptoms, began showing up on social media this week.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the memo’s authenticity to Military Times. The McClatchy news service later reported that a U.S. defense official, who it did not name, also confirmed the memo, describing it as “interim guidance.”

Defense-news website Military.com reports that the memo has been “updated to clarify the guidance,” but it has not seen the reworked memo. A source told the website that the update makes clear that “hospitalization for COVID-19 will be considered medically disqualifying.”

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Military recruits can seek a waiver for any “permanently disqualifying” condition.

The Pentagon has not given a reason that a COVID-19 history or hospitalization is considered disqualifying. It’s believed to come from concern about the unknown long-term health outlook of coronavirus survivors.

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© 2020 The Oregonian