Air Force Academy first to report COVID-19 cases among summer trainees

Elizabeth Howe
July 07, 2020 - 11:20 am
Air Force Academy Summer Training

DVIDS

As the military academies ramp up summer trainings, the Air Force is the first to report COVID-19 cases among its trainees. 

The Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy and West Point all made adjustments to their respective summer trainings in an attempt to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each academy is implementing some form of screening procedure upon arrival, some have compressed training schedules, and others have broken training cohorts into smaller groups. 

Despite these efforts, however, the Air Force Academy became the first academy branch to report COVID-19 cases among its trainees last week. 

The Colorado Springs Independent first reported that around 100 cadets in the 1,000-member class of 2024 tested positive for the virus, but Air Force spokesperson Mike Kucharek told the Independent that the number of cases is far lower than the reported 10 percent of the class. 

The class arrived in Colorado Springs on June 25 before going through screening, 14-day isolation periods, and more screening. 

"The Academy is deemed one of the U.S. Air Force's critical accession sources, and the Academy has been deemed mission-essential by the Secretary of the Air Force. We will continue to carry out our mission of training and educating future Air and Space force leaders with the safety of our cadets, faculty, staff and the entire USAFA population as a main priority," Kucharek said in a released statement. "We have a rigorous medical response plan in place to mitigate risks here and are working closely with our installation medical professionals, and in line with DoD and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines."

Naval Academy plebes also recently arrived on campus in Annapolis, Maryland, and are still undergoing a 14-day restriction of movement period. At the end of the 14-day period, all 1,185 plebes will be tested again -- just as the Air Force Academy cadets were. 

West Point cadets are expected to begin arriving in New York in mid-July. West Point officials have reported that the academy's summer training schedule has been condensed from four months to two in order to minimize the amount of time the class of 2024 spends in close-quarters training environments. 

And Coast Guard Academy summer trainees arrived in Connecticut last week -- in eight smaller groups over the course of multiple days. 

Coast Guard alters training for incoming class due to virus

As restriction of movement periods end and training operations begin, officials from each academy will closely monitor the various classes of 2024 for symptoms of COVID-19. As shown among basic training classes at Fort Benning in Georgia, COVID-19 can spread throughout cohorts quickly despite all screening and prevention measures. 

8 days after quarantine and testing negative, 142 Fort Benning soldiers test positive for COVID-19

The U.S. Army tested a cohort of 640 new recruits and instructors for COVID-19 upon arrival at Fort Benning, Ga. All but four tested negative. The entire cohort completed a 14-day isolation period before beginning training operations. Eight days after training started, 142 of them retested positive. Fort Benning did not alter any mitigation measures or screening procedures following this outbreak. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe

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