Coronavirus: Navy eases restrictions for fully-vaccinated sailors

JACKSONVILLE, FLa. — The Navy is the first branch of the military to roll back COVID-19 restrictions for sailors who are fully vaccinated.

The changes were announced Monday afternoon.

“With more than a year operating in the COVID environment, we have gained significant expertise in mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy in a press release. “Now with vaccines and CDC scientific data, we are able to relax many of the procedures we put in place and still provide for the health protection of the force.”

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Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated sailors will not have to quarantine for 14 days before deployment. However, those who aren’t vaccinated will.

Vaccinated sailors overseas may also use amenities like gyms and laundry facilities.

Sawyer said, “The science is pretty clear, vaccinations are key to best protecting our Sailors. The more Sailors that are vaccinated, the better for them, their families, the Navy and the Nation.”

232,328 Navy members are fully vaccinated, and 86,297 doses of vaccine were administered to those Navy members at the Jacksonville Navy-supported community vaccine center.

Rick Hoffman, a retired Navy Captain and the Executive Director of the Jacksonville Area Ship Repair Association, said it’s a move in the right direction.

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“When I went to sea — I didn’t have any extra people. If five of my sailors are sick, I’m going to be operating with a substantial degradation of my ability to do work,” he said. “[Vaccines] are key to getting back to being able to provide the best service to our ships and sailors and keep them safe at sea.”

He represents all Jacksonville-area companies doing repair work on Navy ships. He said the vaccines were also helpful as they move toward a post-pandemic work environment.