Coronavirus hospitalization is the new barrier to military enlistment

The U.S. military issued new guidelines for handling recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus hospitalization is the new barrier to military enlistment

The Defense Department has begun barring the enlistment of would-be military recruits who have been hospitalized for the coronavirus, unless they get a special medical waiver.

Under a Pentagon memo signed Wednesday, applicants who have tested positive for the virus but did not require hospitalization will be allowed to enlist, as long as all health and other requirements are met.

Those recruits who tested positive won’t be allowed to begin the enlistment process until 28 days after the diagnosis, and they’ll be required to submit all medical documentation. They’ll be cleared for military service 28 days after they’re finished with home isolation, and they won’t need a waiver.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the guidelines, which say that people who were hospitalized may have longer-term physical limitations. Those people would be considered “permanently disqualified” but could then be allowed to request a waiver from the military service they want to enter.

The military services could then require additional medical testing or evaluation as part of that waiver process to determine if the applicant should get a waiver and be allowed to enlist. The new requirement adds COVID hospitalization to a long list of medical conditions — such as asthma — that require waivers.

It is unclear how many potential recruits could be affected by the new guidelines.

Some patients hospitalized with the virus have suffered lung damage. Long-term lung damage could hinder recruits from passing grueling physical requirements for military services.

“Residual and long-term health effects for individuals with severe outcomes, such as hospitalization or admission to an intensive care unit from COVID-19 are unknown,” the memo said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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‘This crony doesn’t cut it.’ Democrats speak out against the new head of the USPS

Democrats worry that the new postmaster general will work alongside the Trump administration to continue the Postal Service’s slow march towards privatization.

‘This crony doesn’t cut it.’ Democrats speak out against the new head of the USPS

The U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors announced Wednesday evening that President Donald Trump had appointed Louis DeJoy to be the next postmaster general. The businessman from North Carolina has donated millions to the Republican party and to President Donald Trump. 

The appointment of DeJoy, said Democrats, is entirely political. They worry that he will work alongside the Trump administration to continue the Postal Service’s slow march towards privatization. 

“When I heard that he had been appointed I quickly realized that the president is irrepressible in his move to destroy the USPS,” Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), a long time advocate of keeping the Postal Service public, told Fortune. The president, he asserted, doesn’t like the Postal Service and appointed DeJoy with the “clear purpose of dismantling it.” 

President Trump has recently been outspoken in his disdain for the Postal Service, linking it to sworn enemy Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He has called the institution “a joke” and said that he believes the quasi-independent agency should “quadruple” the amount of money it charges Amazon to send packages. 

“President Trump rewards a partisan donor by installing him at the United States Postal Service,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee in a statement to Fortune. “The Postal Service is in crisis and needs real leadership and someone with knowledge of the issues. This crony doesn’t cut it.”

DeJoy donated $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund, and his wife, Dr. Aldona Wos, served as ambassador to Estonia during the George W. Bush administration. She has been nominated by the current president to act as ambassador to Canada.

It was a piece of legislation crafted with the help of the Bush administration in 2006 that sent the Postal Service on its current spiral toward bankruptcy. The act requires the agency to pre-fund all employee retiree health benefits for 75 years in the future. That burden accounts for an estimated 80% to 90% of the agency’s revenue losses. When combined with steep drops in business mail because of COVID-19 closures, current Postmaster General Megan Brennan has predicted that the Postal Service may have to shutter by the end of summer. 

Postal advocates say that the “onerous” and “draconian” 2006 bill was created with the intention of forcing the Postal Service to privatize. The Trump administration, under the leadership of treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin has also called for certain parts of USPS to be sold off. 

“The post office going under is a major concern for our democracy, especially coming from a rural state where during this pandemic it’s one of the only ways that people can communicate in addition to technology, so I’m concerned about this nominee,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar in response to a question asked by Fortune on a press call. ”I don’t think we should be politicizing the post office, and I think at this time we should be working together to find reforms to make it stronger.”

The Postal Service is the most trusted federal agency in America, with an approval rating of more than 90%. It currently employs 640,000 staffers, many of whom are people of color and military veterans. Additionally, the USPS is the only mail agency required by the constitution to deliver to every address in the country equally and with uniform rates. A recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies found that without the USPS 70 million Americans would see an increase in surcharges for deliveries. 

Some members of Congress and postal advocates are calling for a bailout and debt forgiveness for the Postal Service in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. They say that this is the only way to save the institution that has not relied on taxpayer funding in more than 30 years, and that it is especially vital to keep the agency healthy ahead of a big push for vote-by-mail this November due to the pandemic. There are some concerns that the appointment of a new postmaster general could end that push.

“This is a nail [in the coffin], but I don’t think it’s the final nail because I think that there are Republicans who are not going to stand for this. They know that we’re never going to get a private contractor to do what the USPS is doing,” said Cleaver. “If members of Congress remain silent and passive, the Post Office will not be in existence a year from now. People can blame this on Donald Trump all they want, but history will fault all of us who remain silent right now.”

DeJoy ran a logistics and distribution company called New Breed Corporation, which contracted with the Postal Service to repair equipment. In a 2016 interview with Triad Business Journal he claimed the contract between his company and USPS was worth between $3.5 and $4 billion. He sold his company in 2014 for $615 million. 

In a statement about his appointment, DeJoy said that he looked forward “to working with the supporters of the Postal Service in Congress and the Administration to ensure the Postal Service remains an integral part of the United States government. Postal workers are the heart and soul of this institution, and I will be honored to work alongside them and their unions.”

The Postal Board of Governors also issued a statement praising DeJoy.

“Louis DeJoy understands the critical public service role of the United States Postal Service, and the urgent need to strengthen it for future generations,” wrote Robert Duncan, chair of the board. “The Board appreciated Louis’ depth of knowledge on the important issues facing the Postal Service and his desire to work with all of our stakeholders on preserving and protecting this essential institution.”

Board member David Williams resigned shortly before the appointment, signaling that perhaps not all was well. A postal insider told Fortune that he expects Congress to hold hearings with Williams to ask why he resigned from the Board of Governors.

DeJoy will be the 75th postmaster general in the United States and is expected to fill his role beginning June 15th. 

More must-read stories from Fortune:

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—Sheryl Sandberg: The pandemic is creating —Trump’s demand that China pay coronavirus reparations evokes —Now is the time to invest in preschool education. —PODCAST: How Marc Benioff is helping out during the coronavirus pandemic
—WATCH: Why the banks were ready for the financial impact of coronavirus

, Fortune’s weekly newsletter on what it takes to reboot business in the midst of a pandemic

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