For most Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations on returning to “activities halted during the pandemic” means making dinner reservations, planning parties with friends or buying concert tickets.
For sailors, the guidance also signals the return of a requirement to make sure they aren’t using drugs — the random indignity of the urinalysis test.
In a Navy-wide message issued last week, the service canceled a March 27, 2020, order that gave commanders leeway in conducting drug tests, to include pausing the process or reducing the number of people tested or the frequency of tests.
The cancellation of the guidance “aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement supporting the safe return to many activities halted during the pandemic,” wrote Navy officials in NAVADMIN 100/21.
According to the message, commands are to return to normal testing procedures and requirements; if they can’t do so as a result of COVID-19 restrictions in their locations, they must provide their reasons to higher-ups.
The message states that those who telework are still subject to testing, but adds that commands are not to test sailors who are quarantined or in restriction of movement status, “except in cases of probable cause.”
Drug testing will be conducted under safe hygiene practices, which may include wearing a mask, social distancing and handwashing, according to the message. Those conducting the tests should wipe down all surfaces contacted and should “avoid personal touch as necessary,” the message states.
The service issued the relaxed guidance last year as COVID-19 was rapidly spreading on board the carrier Theodore Roosevelt — an outbreak that infected more than 1,200 sailors.
The Navy’s drug detection and deterrence program manager, LaNorfeia Parker, said the process needed to be modified to limit person-to-person contact and exposure.
“As we see individuals who are impacted, whether it’s testing positive, or being required to self-quarantine or [having limited movement], it makes it very difficult for us to be one-size-fits-all,” Parker told Military.com.
The Navy conducts random urinalysis tests roughly four times a month, with 15% of a unit selected for testing at any given time. The service tests for illicit drugs as well as legal medications for which a sailor may not have a prescription.
The service said that it maintained some urinalysis testing during the pandemic to enforce its zero-tolerance policy on drug use.
The reinstatement of previous drug testing guidance is the “Navy’s best deterrence to misuse of illicit and prescription drugs,” the message states.
— Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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