This is CSIS’s roundup of major updates on the military and the novel coronavirus since Wednesday, December 8. It explores what the military has done to combat Covid-19 and how the military has in turn been affected by the virus.
- The Freedom-class littoral combat ship U.S.S. Milwaukee is being kept pier-side after several members of the crew tested positive for Covid-19. It is unclear which variant of the virus is spreading amongst the crew. This is the first naval unit to be held from operational tasking since the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt in March 2020. The good news is that none of the sailors infected has needed hospitalization. The bad news is that all of the sailors are vaccinated.
- An outbreak of Covid-19 among Okinawa-based Marines and Sailors has raised fears of introducing community spread to Okinawa. The outbreak also has possible implications for the U.S.- Japan security relationship, having the Japanese people and politicians questioning the exemption to enforced embargo of non-Japanese citizen entry for military members under SOFA status. Japanese authorities have the estimated number related to the outbreak at 258 (Japanese) and there seems to be a secondary spread to Iwakuni (Japanese text). DoD has changed its procedure for overseas PCS, requiring a negative PCR test prior to departure, as opposed to after arrival. All personnel must be vaccinated.
- The military services are beginning to discharge members who refuse to comply with the vaccine mandate. The Marine Corps has discharged 169 Marines who refused to take the vaccine. The Air Force has discharged 27 while refusing more than 2,000 religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate. The Navy has announced that it is beginning to discharge Sailors who refuse the vaccine, however, it has stated its intention to stop the administrative process for any member who decides to get the vaccine once the process has started. It is important to note that the lowest discharge code for any member discharged solely for vaccine refusal is general under honorable conditions.
- In preparation for a continuing wave of infections from the omicron variant, President Biden has announced the deployment of over 1,000 military medical personnel to locales that are currently hardest hit by the virus, including Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Military Cases of Covid-19
How DoD cases have been trending over time is broken down below, by total cases; active cases in the DoD; and across the military services.