The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, intends to test all cadets returning to graduate in June for the novel coronavirus using two new GeneXpert devices procured after the academy established a planning group in mid-March to determine how the process would work.
The return will be similar to how the Army has been bringing new recruits into basic training, according to a West Point spokesman. The planning group has also received input from Training and Doctrine Command on that process.
Cadets will return to campus in small, staggered groups. They’ll be paced in hard structures in the summer training area and wait there for tests results to come back, which should be the same day the swab is taken.
“If they come back clean, they’ll come on campus to their dorm room, and we’re calling it a soft quarantine,” said West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt.
“They won’t be moving in big groups and having formations,” he added, saying that it’s still yet to be determined what that soft quarantine will entail because of constant updates to Center for Disease Control and Army guidance.
West Point also outfitted its hospital, which had an out-patient focus with an ER and elective surgeries before the pandemic, with a new intensive care unit that includes six ventilators if necessary. There were no ventilators there before.
President Donald Trump has been expected to speak at the graduation ceremony, though the pandemic left it unclear whether the ceremony would happen at all.
The New York Times reported Friday that the president’s announcement at a news conference that he was still attending the graduation caught West Point officials off-guard, though the Times noted that planning had already been underway even if it had not been announced. Cadets have also always known that returning to West Point would have to happen in some manner, said Ophardt.