Service members flying overseas on official duty via Patriot Express flights from Baltimore/Washington International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma Airport may be subjected to random rapid, on-site COVID-19 testing, the Department of Defense announced Nov. 1.
Although all passengers flying on Patriot Express flights are screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and complete a pre-travel questionnaire and temperature check, now approximately 10-15 percent of passengers who don’t exhibit any symptoms will also be randomly tested for COVID-19 using a rapid, on-site laboratory test that can provide results within 15 minutes.
“By implementing rapid, on-site testing for Patriot Express passengers at our BWI and SEATAC terminals, Air Mobility Command is establishing a common baseline across the services to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Brig. Gen. Norman West, Air Mobility Command Surgeon General, said in a news release. “Through our Total Force team, AMC is committed to doing everything in our power to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among our Patriot Express passengers traveling to overseas locations.”
This policy, which took effect Sunday, excludes family members who may be traveling, those with a valid COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours of the flight, and Army personnel who have received an authorized medical clearance letter.
In the event a Patriot Express passenger tests positive, the individual will either be referred to a medical facility to receive appropriate treatment or will be placed in isolation — depending on how severe the illness symptoms are.
Those traveling independently will be subjected to a 10-day isolation period, while those with dependents will undergo a 14-day quarantine period. Individuals from Baltimore will receive attention from personnel at Dover Air Force Base while those from Seattle will receive similar assistance from personnel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Troops continue to arrive in South Korea with COVID-19.
The new testing policy coincides with an update from U.S. Forces Korea that 18 individuals affiliated with USFK who arrived in South Korea between Oct. 25 and Oct. 29 tested positive for COVID-19.
Of those, nine service members and one dependent had taken a government-chartered flight from the U.S., while four service members, three dependents and one contractor had taken international commercial flights.
All individuals were required to take a COVID-19 test prior to entering a mandatory quarantine period for at least 14 days, in accordance with USFK policy. Sixteen of the USFK-affiliated personnel tested positive ahead of entering quarantine and two others tested positive following a subsequent test required to exit quarantine.
Those who tested positive are currently in isolation at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base.