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Army will now screen recruits for coronavirus, before basic training can begin

Soldiers participating in Hanuman Guardian 20 in Korat, Thailand, had an additional step to go through before they were allowed into the chow hall to eat breakfast. All of them received a forehead temperature scan for preventive medicine measures. (U.S. Army/Released)

New Army recruits arriving at basic training sites will now be screened for potential coronavirus exposure starting on Tuesday, the top general in charge of Army training said.

Gen. Paul Funk II, commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said the Army ran rehearsals to screen for the virus on Monday at its four basic training bases — Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla.

During the rehearsals they simulated the arrival of buses of new recruits, some with symptoms, some not, to train screeners on what to look for. The four training bases began the actual new screening procedure on Tuesday.

“We started receiving people this morning,” Funk said. In the past, buses of new recruits were brought directly onto the base. Now they are taken to a reception area to be screened before they join the general military population, he said.

The recruits will be observed for any symptoms, have their temperature taken, and be asked a series of questions.

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About 1,000 new Army active duty, reserve and National Guard recruits begin their training at the four bases each week, for a total of about 100,000 new soldiers each year, Funk said.

During the screening, each recruit will be asked “has anyone living with you traveled through China, Korea, Japan, Iran or Italy?” They will also be asked whether they had contact with individuals who have tested positive for the virus, said training command spokesman Col. Richard McNorton.

“Then they are asked if they have or are observed to have the following symptoms — cough, sore throat, diarrhea, shortness of breath, muscle aches or fatigue,” McNorton said.

“If all that’s a ‘No,’ then their temperature is taken,” McNorton said. “If it’s below 99.4 they are good to go. If they answer ‘Yes’ to those questions or if their temperature is above 99.5 then you direct the recruit — they are actually separated,” he said. “Battalion medical personnel removes them from the training cue.”

The bases have adequate testing kits in hand to test for coronavirus. If recruits test positive, they will be treated by the Army’s medical system, Funk said.

The Navy and Air Force did not have an immediate response on whether similar new screening procedures were being implemented at their bases.

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© 2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau