DOD says it is following CDC guidelines and limiting coronavirus testing for troops

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2020 - Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that has now infected more than 50 service members and thousands of Americans, military officials have assured that the young, healthy, robust troops are at a relatively low risk for complications associated with the respiratory disease. But at the same time, public health officials have stressed that symptom-less people could be unknowingly carrying the virus and passing it to others.

Still, the Defense Department is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to limit testing only to troops showing symptoms like cough, fever and body aches, even as data emerges that coronavirus is affecting young people more seriously than previously thought.

“One of the challenges with any infectious disease is when it becomes testable,” Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, told reporters Thursday. “What we’ve found — at least the current information — is asymptomatic people, even if eventually becoming positive wouldn’t screen positive at that time.”

With testing kits in limited supply and without a reliable chance that troops without coughs and fevers will come back positive, the policy is to screen for symptoms and contact with other confirmed cases before testing.

“Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” according to the CDC.

However, there have been cases of asymptomatic positives. The actor Idris Elba, for example, took to Instagram on Tuesday to announce his diagnosis.