The Centers for Disease Control And PreventionUpdated: December 23, 2022
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works around the clock to protect the United States from threats to the safety, health, and security of its population.
The CDC collaborates with other agencies to provide information, resources, and expertise to allow people and communities to protect their health. This includes:
- Health promotion
- Disease prevention
- Prevention of injury and disability
- Preparedness for new threats to public health
What does the CDC do?
The CDC is the United States’ main health protection agency, and works to increase the security of the country’s health. The CDC aims to save lives through the prevention and treatment of disease, regardless of the type or origin of disease. The CDC conducts important scientific research and provides information about health to protect the United States from dangerous health threats, and responds when these threats occur. The CDC does this through:
- Detecting emerging threats to health, and responding when they happen
- Identifying and treating the major health problems that lead to disability and death for citizens of the United States
- Utilizing science and technology to prevent the spread of disease
- Promoting healthy communities and behaviors
- Training the public health workforce and leaders in the field
What is the CDC doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19?
Currently, the United States is experiencing different rates of COVID-19 infection in different areas of the country. Nationally, the pandemic is still in the beginning stages, but states where there is community spread are experiencing acceleration of the disease. How long the pandemic lasts and its severity depend on the response of public health agencies such as the CDC. Right now, there are cases in all fifty states, and 27 states are currently experiencing community spread, meaning people are not sure how they became infected.
The CDC has helped set up state and local public health laboratories that are testing patients for COVID-19. The CDC also has other resources that individuals can use to stay up to date on how the virus is impacting the United States, including:
- The total number of cases reported so far
- A map of states that have reported cases
COVID-19 and the military
As of March 25, 2020, there were over 200 cases of COVID-19 among those on active duty. The rate of cases among service members is approximately 175 cases for every million troops. In order to reduce this number, the CDC and Department of Defense are recommending social distancing as much as possible. Those on active duty have been told to stay at home if they feel sick, and some have been able to transition to teleworking, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.
How do the CDC and the military work together?
The CDC opened in Atlanta, GA on July 1, 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center, a branch of the Public Health Service. Since it was first developed, the CDC has worked to protect the health of military personnel and veterans in the United States. The CDC was originally established to address concerns of malaria infections among U.S. troops during World War II, and to prevent the spread of malaria across the United States. The organization continued to advocate for public health, and worked to extend its responsibilities to other communicable diseases. In 1947, the CDC expanded to include all communicable diseases, and to provide assistance to state health departments as needed.
More recently, the CDC has worked to address health concerns of veterans of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. The CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health is also working with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to protect the health of all service members.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC is providing guidance that the Department of Defense is utilizing to make decisions on how to best protect service members and their families. One way that the Department of Defense is protecting the military is by restricting travel for personnel. The Department of Defense has issued Force Health Protection guidelines that require the following:
- Screening for all DoD personnel who have traveled to, from, or through countries that have been affected by the virus for symptoms of COVID-19
- Self-monitoring of any symptoms at home for personnel who have traveled through affected areas
Currently, the CDC is recommending that all individuals in the United States avoid non-essential international travel, due to the global spread of COVID-19. In addition, the Department of Defense has banned most domestic travel, and has temporarily suspended all permanent change-of-station moves.
In order to prevent further spread of the virus, Army researchers are working to quickly develop and test vaccines against COVID-19. The Army is working with both governmental and private sector organizations on multiple vaccine candidates, and is also working to test soldiers at a higher rate. Currently, the Army has nine medical facilities with clinical laboratories that are certified to conduct COVID-19 testing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also working with multiple state governments to help with planning and to increase the available bed space on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Additionally, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is allowing more than 200 military medical students and graduate nursing students to graduate early, so that they are able to support their colleagues within the U.S. military health system during this pandemic.
Other CDC guidance for the military
Military installations, in accordance with guidance from the CDC, are implementing additional measures in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to service members and families. These include the use of personal protective equipment for some personnel, and gate guards wearing gloves and scanning ID cards instead of touching them.
Department of Defense personnel are provided with protective measures based on their level of risk of being exposed to COVID-19. The DoD is also using guidance from the CDC to educate all personnel on individual and community measures that should be taken in order to reduce the spread of the virus, and to protect all service members, civilians, and their families.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.