Air Mobility Command is testing up to 15 percent of passengers who take “Patriot Express” flights out of two U.S. airports in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Patriot Express routes are flown by commercial jets that contract with the Defense Department to ferry military members and their families overseas.
Troops flying out of Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport without COVID-19 symptoms are eligible for the quick tests that began Nov. 1. AMC already screens passengers for symptoms by issuing a questionnaire and checking their temperatures.
“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,” AMC Surgeon General Brig. Gen. Norman West said in a 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.”
During an initial trial period, Patriot Express staffers will choose up to 15 percent of passengers for Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test, which produces results in about 15 minutes. Family members will not be considered for rapid testing.
Rapid tests can be less accurate than those that take longer to process in a laboratory.
If a service member proves positive for the coronavirus, they and their travel party will be referred to a liaison who will help them get medical care and lodging so they can isolate. Contractors who test positive will contact their employer.
Service members traveling alone will need to quarantine for 10 days if they have contracted the virus. Those traveling with family will be asked to quarantine for 14 days.
People flying out of BWI can get care and lodging at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and those at SeaTac will go to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Passengers will receive full, flat-rate per diem funding to cover costs of lodging.
Testing can help stem the virus’s travel from overseas installations to the U.S. and vice versa. As of the morning of Oct. 30, the Defense Department had tallied 83,146 cases of COVID-19 across its military and civilian employees, contractors, and their dependents.