Dr. Victor Connell, a doctor at Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma, gives a medical exam to an active duty Coast Guardsman on April 4, 2004. (USCG photo)

Coast Guard Extends Validity of Periodic Medical Assessments to Free Up Health System for COVID-19

The Coast Guard said it will extend the expiration dates of most medical assessments in order to alleviate potential strain on service clinics and sick bays throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The commandant’s notice added that the 120-day extension to reduce non-acute healthcare visits would also serve to reduce travel. Guidance released earlier this month said that “official travel to U.S. locations experiencing sustained community transmission of COVID-19 may only be performed if it is mission-essential, time-sensitive work that cannot be handled via distance or remote means.”

The extension on required periodic medical assessments applies to Periodic Health Assessments, Annual Dental Exams, Occupational Medicine Surveillance Exams (OMSEP Exams), Dive Physicals, and Annual Aviation Physicals.

Annual Aviation and Dive Physicals that require renewal of an aeromedical waiver are not automatically extended, including temporary waivers.

“Flight Surgeons, Aviation Medical Officers, and Designated Aviation Physician Assistants (APA-Ds) may issue an aeromedical upchit for four months beyond the birth month by telephone or telehealth consultation if, in their judgment, there are no significant changes in the aircrew’s health since the last flying duty medical exam (FDME),” the commandant’s note continued. “If grounded for a self-resolving illness, including COVID-19, an upchit may be issued if resolution of the condition in question can be adequately evaluated remotely. However, upchits contingent upon completion or renewal of an aeromedical waiver or resubmission of a temporary waiver, in addition to a flight physical, require a waiver evaluation.”

“FS/AMO/APA-D will determine if the waiver assessment can be completed telephonically or face-to-face. Flight Surgeon Trainees and APAs who are not yet designated may conduct a telephonic or telehealth upchit
consultation, but must obtain concurrence from their supervising Flight Surgeon before issuing the upchit.”

The memo added that “it may not be possible for Coast Guard Business Intelligence to rapidly reflect these changes, particularly with regard to Aviation and Dive Physicals.”

The Coast Guard also encouraged all members this week to give blood in order to help in this time of crisis, either through the Armed Services Blood Program  or a local blood donation organization.

“Unlike many other contingencies that arise where the CG is in the lead, we are in a support role here. So when I heard the Commandant say, let’s help our communities any way we can, I figured this would be a good way to help folks in need,” said Capt. Matthew Meilstrup, who donated this week at his local Red Cross.

Coast Guard members are encouraged to wear the Operational Dress Uniform and other “working” uniforms – including flight suits and the Navy Working Uniform Type III – when they give blood, and civilian USCG workers should wear Coast Guard apparel.

“The Red Cross had a steady flow, but there were empty tables – clearly they could have used more people coming in,” said Meilstrup. “I gave blood to help out my neighbors, and I encourage everybody who can, to do the same.”

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz lauded on Twitter the service’s “ongoing efforts to combat the global pandemic, while performing our most critical missions – saving lives, defending our Nation, & facilitating maritime commerce.”

“The unsung heroes in the @USCG COVID-19 response are our IT professionals. During the response, an unprecedented amount of our workforce is teleworking placing an incredible strain on our aging network, leading to delays & disruptions,” Schultz tweeted. “This pandemic underscores the importance of updated software/hardware.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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