Navy updates guidance to combat COVID-19

The Navy issued COVID-19 Standardized Operational Guidance (SOG) Version 3.1 to combat the coronavirus pandemic with NAVADMIN 298/20 Nov. 4.

The latest guidance updates the previously issued COVID-19 guidance and is intended to protect the health of individuals and units while preserving operational readiness. Although it is predominantly based on the shipboard environment, this guidance applies to all uniformed Navy personnel and deploying units.

This update incorporates an updated Center for Disease Control (CDC) definition of close contact, revises guidance on face coverings and addresses flu and COVID-19 symptom return to work policies based on an increased understanding of the COVID-19 threat. SOG 3.1 serves as a standard framework for deploying units, but commanders may provide more specific guidance, if required.

“With the beginning of flu season we want to make sure we make an even more concerted effort to keep our Sailors and their families healthy,” said Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, the Navy’s operations chief in charge of coordinating the service’s response to COVID-19. “With this updated guidance, we want to give commanders the tools to prevent, and when necessary contain, COVID-19 impact to force, mission and mission assurance to safely and confidently remain on mission around the world.”

SOG 3.1 clarifies that personnel executing a Restriction of Movement (ROM) are considered to be in a duty status and ROM periods will not be counted as annual leave.

With the onset of flu season, this new guidance explains return to work requirements for COVID Like Illness (CLI) and Influenza Like Illness (ILI). The symptoms of ILI are similar to CLI symptoms and the absence of COVID-specific symptoms, or testing positive for another illness such as the flu, does not eliminate the possibility of COVID infection. The risk of COVID and ILI co-infection exists and the CDC recommends executing the full COVID isolation period for all symptomatic individuals, even when testing negative for COVID-19.

A Sailor with suspected CLI or ILI who has tested negative for COVID-19 may return to work after at least 24hours after the resolution of a fever without medication, improvement of symptoms and at least ten days since the onset of symptoms.

Face coverings with an exhaust valve, and bandanas, are prohibited by this new guidance. These types of face coverings do not prevent moisture escaping in exhaled breath and fail to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Commands may issue local guidance authorizing the use of multi-layer gaiters if they meet all safety requirements where a separate ear strap or face covering is not suitable for the operational environment.

Close contacts are individuals who are identified as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time. The latest CDC guidance defines prolonged period of time as a cumulative 15 minutes in the last 24 hours.

The latest COVID mitigation plan includes a test before the ROM sequester period, a minimum14-day ROM-sequester and an exit test. A negative test will be required to embark a ship or any other congregate ROM environment. Testing is the best way to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 individuals.

The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery COVID-19 Readiness Guide (BUMED CRG) provides medical personnel amplifying guidance to address deployability, duty status, return to work, and return to exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be found here (CAC required).

See Navy.mil release for previous SOG 3.0 posted Sept. 30, 2020: Navy Updates Standardized Operational Guidance.