U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (CBS4) – Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Thursday that all Air Force Academy cadets will return to campus in Colorado in the fall. Military training pipelines were declared “mission essential” by Esper Thursday morning, meaning that cadets will return in full.
The order makes the Air Force Academy one of the first universities in the country return to campus in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The cadets not already on campus will return within the next week. The entire cadet wing will be back in Colorado Springs by the end of July.
The Academy will test cadets several times for COVID-19 over their first two weeks on campus. The tests will happen the day a cadet arrives, 7 days after arrival, 10 days after arrival, and 14 days after arrival. Random tests will also occur to identify any asymptomatic cadet. Those with positive cases will be immediately quarantined in isolation spaces.
Distancing measures will also be taken during training, classes and in living arrangements. Classes will start in mid-August and will take place both in person and online. Outdoor classes, when weather allows, will take place, and smaller classes will use larger spaces. Labs and other hands-on classes will take place in small groups.
In order to maintain isolation space, the Academy will house 400 healthy cadets in hotels in Colorado Springs for the fall semester, and as long as necessary. Plans for food and transportation are in the works. Cadets will be supervised and held to the same health, training and military standards as if they were living in USAFA dormitories.