Frequently Asked Questions

USCG Specific Frequently Asked Questions

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R 011820 JUL 20
ALCOAST 259/20

1. This ALCOAST establishes Commander’s Intent for the application of off-duty risk management (ODRM) to every individual Coast Guard members’ personal behavior and choices during the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Operational readiness requires workforce readiness, and workforce readiness is reliant on the preservation of a healthy workforce. Your individual, personal choices affect the Coast Guard’s ability to perform our missions.

2. In operational risk management (ORM), we assess risk factors against mission gain before launching. We also avoid unwarranted risk. In ODRM, we expect members to employ a similar risk-based decision approach to off-duty behavior. This health care crisis is not over and the Coast Guard is not immune to the increasing COVID-19 cases occurring across the nation. Even as some local jurisdictions are lifting restrictions, we expect every member to make smart, informed and responsible decisions that limit their exposure to COVID-19 in order to protect themselves, their friends, families, and shipmates to ensure our Service remains ready for the important work expected of us. All military and civilian personnel, including reservists on active duty or conducting Inactive Duty Training (IDT), must become familiar with ODRM concepts through the contents of this message and apply them at all times. Reservists not on active duty or in a drilling status are encouraged to become familiar with the contents and adopt the directives in this ALCOAST.

3. This ALCOAST directs our Coast Guard personnel, and encourages their family members, to carefully consider risk to themselves and CG missions before engaging in activities that pose an increased risk to contracting COVID-19. Commanders at all levels, after consulting with the appropriate staff judge advocate office, are authorized to implement additional guidelines based on local conditions, including prohibiting certain activities. This Commander’s Intent further informs unit commanders in their evaluation of requests for leave beyond the local area as allowed in REF (A). The importance of this ALCOAST is amplified for units requiring special vigilance such as cutters, aircraft, DSF, and watch standing crews, who in many cases, have already been executing restrictions in movements (ROM) prior to deploying to ensure readiness is maintained in a confined environment. The readiness of our supporting personnel also remains critical to successful mission execution. 

4. It is critically important to recognize that COVID-19 infects persons of all ages and, while younger individuals generally do not become seriously ill, the ease of transmission from a single COVID-19 positive person places many others at risk. Age is not a protection from COVID-19. There are three fundamental COVID-19 related risk criteria Coast Guard personnel must consider when making off-duty decisions:
   a. The physical location of an activity (e.g., outdoors, indoors, type of ventilation);
   b.The number and expected behavior of others at that location (e.g., amount of space per person, mask status, COVID-19 precautions in place); and
   c.The duration of time in close contact of others (e.g., longer than 10 minutes and within 6 feet of another is a risk).  

5. There is a higher risk of COVID-19 spread the closer one physically interacts with others, the larger the social circle, and the longer the duration of those interactions. Talking, yelling or singing, as well as coughing or sneezing in the vicinity of others increases the likelihood that an infected person will spread the virus. The virus is contained in tiny droplet particles that are released from the mouth and nose - up to 200 million viral particles from a single sneeze. The most common route of infection is inhalation of viral particles, which can linger for minutes in the air, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Indoor spaces increase the likelihood of transmission as compared to being outdoors since viral particles have less room to dissipate. When outside of your home and work space, consider how many people, especially unknown or unexpected people, you may be exposed to within a six foot radius or less. Equally important is calculating the duration of time you may have unavoidable close contact. As a guideline, it requires 10 minutes of close contact within 6 feet of an infected person to pass the disease to others. 

6. Stay informed of local disease transmission in your community and the communities to which you travel. Avoid non-essential travel to areas with high or growing positive case rates, and areas with limited/strained medical capacity. A useful rule of thumb is to look at an indicator called “test positivity” which is the percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed in a particular county which come back positive. This is most meaningful when viewed as a trend within a 7-14 day window. A lower number is better, ideally less than 2% positivity of all tests for a jurisdiction will be positive. All personnel are encouraged to check their local testing numbers at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center at:

7. Travel increases your chances of becoming infected and spreading COVID-19 so additional precautions are necessary. Avoid traveling with or visiting persons who are ill or at higher risk of COVID complications from infection. Many forms of travel require spending time in lines or with crowds, place people in contact with highly touched surfaces, and provide seating inadequate to meet a socially distanced standard of six feet, potentially for many hours. Always wear a face-covering while in public places and prepare food and water for your trip, especially non-perishables, in case restaurants or stores are closed. Carry alcohol-based (min 60%) hand sanitizer and surface cleaners. Know the pandemic precautions taken for your chosen lodging. Use cashless payments and touchless delivery wherever possible. You can find CDC guidance on staying safe while traveling at:

8. Lower-Risk Off-Duty Activities. When following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance ( sick/prevention.html), including frequent hand washing and consistent wearing of a cloth face cover, the following activities are deemed low-risk off duty behavior.
   a. Close contact activities with your household or a small social circle. When defining your social circle, consider limiting yourself (your household) to interactions with just one or two other households. For those members with children, consider including another family with children in your social circle. Build trust with anyone that you engage with regularly to ensure he/she/they are not engaging in any risky behavior. Moving amongst different social circles may significantly increase the risk for everyone. It is recommended that your social circle be exclusive and recognized by all members of that social circle for accountability. If anyone becomes ill or believes they have had a COVID-19 exposure, immediate sharing of this information is imperative. No person in isolation or quarantine should be in a social circle during a time of illness or recent COVID exposure.
   b. Outdoor activities with members of your household or small social circle such as running, biking, rowing, camping, fishing, hiking, and water activities.
   c. Attending in-person worship services while using cloth face cover and adhering to social-distancing (defined as remaining at least 6 feet from the nearest person).
   d. Visiting outdoor restaurants if you are able to meet social distancing protocols, preferably removing cloth face cover only while dining or drinking. Be sure the establishment staff wear cloth face covers at all times.
   e. Use of public transportation such as buses, rail, aircraft, or rideshare/taxis, if able to maintain social distancing and appropriate authorities require all transportation users and staff to wear cloth face covers at all times. If practical, consider driving to reduce risk of exposure to those outside your social circle.
   f. On-base gyms and fitness centers, if social distance requirements can be met and regular cleaning is maintained.
   g. Outdoor leisure activities including parks, public swimming pools, and beaches while adhering to social-distancing and using cloth face coverings as feasible (e.g., not while swimming).
   h. Going to the grocery store or other in-person retail for essential items which cannot easily be ordered online. Cloth face covers should be used at all times within stores, and the frequency of going to stores should be limited to once or twice per week.

9. Activities that Pose Higher Risk. The following activities, by their nature, increase the risk of COVID transmission:
   a. Any activities when unable to maintain social distancing or when cloth face cover usage cannot be maintained (except activities with only household or vetted social circle members).
   b. Public events and gatherings, either indoor or outdoor, such as live audience sports, running races, music festivals, concerts, amusement parks, racetracks, cruise ships, and conventions.
   c. Indoor commercial activities (i.e. restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, theaters, museums, casinos, family entertainment centers, hair stylist/barber shops, stores, etc...).
   d. Off base gyms and fitness centers.
   e. Any close contact sporting activities.

10. Members and their families can enhance Coast Guard mission readiness by effectively conducting ODRM and by making good choices when away from the workplace. If you become ill, report it immediately to prevent further infections. If you or a family member become ill, work with your supervisory leadership team to work from home until cleared by medical professionals - do not come to work sick or if you believe you are getting sick. 

11. Semper Paratus, Always Ready, and our core value of devotion to duty, requires adherence to high standards in order to ensure that we remain ready to carry out our missions. We need all hands to use ODRM to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19. Take personal responsibility for your off-duty choices and model the behaviors needed to minimize risk at home, at our units, and in our communities.

12. VADM Scott Buschman, Deputy Commandant for Operations, and VADM Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, send, in consultation with the Coast Guard’s Chief Medical Officer.

13. Internet release is authorized.