As the Army ushers recruits through its many initial training programs with new screening precautions, coronavirus cases have started to emerge.
A soldier-in-training and a student in the basic officer leaders course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, became the first individuals there to test positive for the virus, post commander Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. said Monday night.
Fort Jackson has a “contact tracing team” that will identify who the trainees came into contact with and test them if necessary, Beagle said in a video posted to social media.
“Everybody will not receive a test, but those who have been in prolonged contact and in close proximity with a patient under investigation who has been tested, will be tested,” Beagle said. “For the rest, we’ll take other isolation and quarantine protocols based on that individuals symptoms and signs that they show over time.”
Beagle added that a contracted team will do “deep cleaning” of areas the confirmed patients had contact with.
The Army has continued to take in new recruits during the ongoing pandemic, but the number of intakes has been roughly halved, Army Chief of Staff James McConville said late last week. Recruits now go through an increased medical screening procedure to identify potential coronavirus cases, McConville added.
Beagle reiterated the precautions being taken Monday night.
“They are screened at the recruiting station, they are screened at the military entrance processing station and they’re screened at reception,” Beagle said.
Testing at Fort Jackson takes roughly 48 hours. The soldier-in-training who eventually tested positive first presented possible coronavirus symptoms at the reception battalion for basic combat training on Friday.
As part of the screening procedures, trainees are asked whether they live with anyone who visited a “hotspot” in the last 14 days. Those locations include Japan, China, Korea, Italy or Iran, according to a slide Beagle showed on the video.
Recruits are also asked whether they’ve come into contact with someone who has a confirmed coronavirus case and whether they’re sick with a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
The recruit answered “yes” to some combination of those questions and was then isolated, given a mask and sent to a medical facility, Beagle said. The recruit was then deemed a “patient under investigation” by a medical professional and further isolated in a quarantine unit recently established on post while Army officials awaited test results.
The recruit’s test came back positive Monday. They were allowed to call home and will continue to be isolated until they either need medical treatment or can return to training, Beagle said.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.