- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Maryland congressman is calling on the Marine Corps to relax its strict grooming standards during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to protect both the Marines and the groomers stationed at each base.

In a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, said grooming standards can be lowered without threatening national security.

“At a time when social distancing has been imposed across the country and proven to be a successful public health measure, Marines are being unnecessarily put at risk of infection in order to comply with traditional grooming standards that may be optimal in an ideal world but are inessential and can be relaxed in the real world without doing any damage at all to institutional mission or national security,” he said in the letter.

Mr. Raskin said the issue was brought to his attention by the families of several Marines who are concerned about crowded barbershops during the time of the coronavirus crisis.

Gen. Berger has received the letter but has opted to keep his communications private, his spokesperson told Military.com, adding that decisions to relax grooming standards have been left with the commanders.

But Mr. Raskin said the nature of the highly contagious virus warrants “the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that Marines are famous for.”

Calls to relax grooming standards grew after a video posted to social media showed dozens of Marines without masks standing in line to get their haircut.

There have been 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, among the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the Pentagon.

Across all branches of the military, two active-duty service members have died from the virus to date.

“It would only take one infected Marine sitting down in a barber chair,” Mr. Raskin said, “or one infected barber breathing too close to a client, to start a chain reaction that could infect a large population that forms part of our fighting force.”

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