COVID-19 cancels SERE class after 90 of 110 test positive

Elizabeth Howe
July 01, 2020 - 7:35 am
SERE Training

DVIDS

A special operations Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course at Fort Bragg in North Carolina was cut short by a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 90 out of the class's 110 participants. 

U.S. Army Special Operations Command confirmed Tuesday that 82 students and eight instructors from a 110-person SERE course tested positive for COVID-19 -- a roughly 82 percent infection rate. The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School -- the school that operates the SERE course -- is currently cycling roughly 2,400 soldiers through various trainings. 

"We have 2,400 students training here every day at SWCS and that (90) is the only sick population we have," Janice Burton, SWCS spokesperson told Military.com

The infected class was terminated shortly before the completion of the three-week course and are currently being quarantined for 14 days. 

Students in the SERE course and other courses at SWCS followed "strict" COVID-19 guidelines, USASOC officials said. Before attending SWCS courses, students are isolated for 14 days. Those who test positive are quarantined for another 14 days. And students are screened regularly throughout training operations.

The outbreak was first reported by the New York Times via a unit press release that said a few individuals exhibited COVID-19 symptoms resulting in 100 percent testing for the class. None of those who have tested positive have required hospitalization and most positive cases are not showing symptoms.

This SERE class outbreak is the most severe of the Army's reported COVID-19 outbreaks -- but not the first. At the beginning of June, Fort Benning in Georgia reported that a class that started basic training free of COVID-19 had 142 positive cases a week into training operations. 

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

Just last week, the Army surpassed the Navy with the most COVID-19 cases of any branch. With the outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy outpaced any other branch's COVID-19 infection rates for the first months of the pandemic. The Army slowly closed the gap. 

In total, as of Monday morning, the Department of Defense had reported a total of 17,116 COVID-19 cases across the force. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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