The world’s largest office building is shutting down to most visitors and offering broad permission to work remotely as part of enhanced precautionary measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pentagon has increased its Health Protection Condition to “bravo,” restricting access for visitors who don’t have personal access cards, including international military partners who frequently attend meetings in the building.
“If you’re sick, don’t come to the building. Stay home, contact your health care provider, get tested if necessary,” a senior defense official reiterated in a phone briefing Saturday.
To date, 10 service members, one Defense Department civilian, eight dependents and two DoD contractors have tested positive for coronavirus, according to an official, two of whom are hospitalized.
The new measures come a week after building staff began social distancing measures, including spreading large senior leadership meetings over several conference rooms and video linking them together, as well as declining handshakes frequent cleaning of office spaces.
Going forward, the official said, there will be minimal staffing at the Pentagon. Some offices will telework entirely, while others may be broken into rotating groups to restrict the number of people in a space at any given time.
Staff whose work deals heavily in classified information will continue to be allowed access in their offices.
Promotion, reenlistment, swearing-in and retirement ceremonies have also been suspended.
And for those with badge access who have traveled to east Asia, Europe and other hotspots in recent days, a a mandatory two-week quarantine is in effect before they can return to the building.
On Friday, DoD announced a ban on travel within the contiguous United States for service members and other DoD personnel, including permanent change of station moves and temporary duty assignments, after earlier in the week putting the same restraints on international movement.
The new restrictions put thousands of service members on ice as they gear up for the summer PCS season.
Some who had already packed up and shipped off their personal items have been stuck without housing or more than a few days’ clothing after being ordered not to board their flights to their next duty stations. That includes service members’ whose families have already made their moves without them.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued guidance Wednesday allowing local commanders to grant emergency funding, per diems to cover expenses and other support in those situations, as well as to allow exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
“The best advice for individuals who are not where they need to be is to call their supervisors or their gaining unit and get informed about what their particular circumstance is,” a defense official said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.