An undisclosed number of U.S. Air Force Academy cadets who went back to campus over the summer—including some from the class of 2024—have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the school confirmed to Air Force Magazine on July 8.
Defense Department policy prohibits the Academy from releasing “specific COVID-19 numbers at the installation level,” USAFA spokesperson Mike Slater told Air Force Magazine in an emailed response to questions.
While “sources familiar with Academy operations” told the Colorado Springs Indy that approximately 100 cadets came down with the virus, Slater said USAFA is seeing significantly fewer cases “than what has been reported in other media sources,” and that the number of current cases “is consistent with other accession sources,” such as Officer Training School and the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
“The Academy has a Quarantine and Isolation (Q & I) plan in place, developed by leadership with guidance from our public health professionals and following Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines,” he wrote.
If any cadets test positive for or show symptoms of COVID-19, or if they had contact with someone carrying the virus, USAFA responds in accordance with this plan “with guidance from our public health professionals,” Slater said.
“We expected positive cases and are carrying out our plan,” he said.
He said the plan is executed “with guidance from our public health professionals” if cadets test positive for or show symptoms of COVID-19, or if they had contact with someone carrying the virus.
The Academy did not immediately provide details of the plan. However, a request for proposals issued by the school on July 6—which was first reported by the Colorado Springs Indy—shows the Academy is planning to move some Cadets to area hotels in order to create more social distance within living spaces.
“USAFA currently has a potential need to house some portion of the Cadet Wing off the installation in order to create swing space within the cadet dormitories,” the RFP states. “To support this requirement, USAFA seeks to contract with multiple off-base lodging facilities on a potential short- and long-term basis.”
The RFP states that the school needs blanket purchase agreements “to procure 220 double hotels room,” with at least two queen beds in each room, so that about 440 cadets can live off base in the 2020-2021 academic year. It wants these rooms from July 22 “(or date of award, whichever is later)” until July 21, 2021.
“The contractor shall furnish all resources (including, but not limited to, facilities, furniture, equipment, supplies, and breakfast) and incidental services to provide lodging accommodations meeting normal commercial standards,” the RFP states.
The Academy aims to put these cadets “in as few hotels as possible within a 10-mile vehicle commute radius of” the installation’s airfield so that they can still be close to the base and each other, for the sake of “safety requirements” and cutting down on travel costs cadets need to foot the bill for, the RFP explained.
Despite these new COVID-19 cases, Slater said the Academy is still completing all of its Basic Cadet Training requirements, though the pandemic has prompted some tweaks, including the utilization of smaller training groups and the employment of virtual training.
“The Jacks Valley portion of BCT will continue this year, but may have a different look,” he added. “Training will incorporate social distancing and keep the safety of basic cadets and staff at the forefront. The Academy is working to balance physical safety with individual well-being and resiliency.”
All students coming to the installation this summer must undergo a 14-day restriction of movement and be tested for the new coronavirus multiple times, Slater said.
“Cadets will have multiple COVID-19 tests upon return and within the first few weeks at the Academy,” he said.
The Academy has also implemented “social distancing and wearing masks as appropriate.”