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US Navy bans families from boot camp graduations over coronavirus fears

Graduating recruits stand in formation inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall during a pass in review graduation ceremony at Recruit Training Command. More than 35,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling/Released)
March 09, 2020

The U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command (RTC) is suspending guest attendance at boot camp graduation ceremonies in an effort to prevent the potential transmission of coronavirus between Navy personnel and families.

The RTC announced graduations will continue as planned and can instead be viewed on live-streams shared over Navy online platforms. The changes are set to begin on March 13.

“Commander, Naval Service training command, which oversees RTC, will continue to monitor the situation and consult with medical experts to decide when it is appropriate to resume guest attendance at graduation ceremonies,” the Navy announcement read.

The U.S. Navy has identified no current cases of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, among its recruits and indicated there are “robust screening processes in place” for those who arrive at the service’s boot camps. Instead, the new restrictions are being adopted “out of an abundance of caution,” so as to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and ensure the training bases can remain open to continue basic training for sailors.

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Recruits whose families had planned to attend their graduation were allowed to call home and notify them of the changes.

The RTC also announced it had canceled liberty leave for the new recruits following their graduation. Rather than receiving leave after graduation, recruits will instead report directly to their follow-on assignments. Guest access at those locations may be determined at the discretion of those individual commands.

“Families are encouraged to contact their recruits following graduation for details, the RTC announcement said. “We cannot speak on behalf of the commands they will be reporting to regarding their liberty policy.”

The U.S. Navy recruits are the latest service members to be impacted by policy changes resulting from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, the U.S. Army Garrison Italy canceled move orders for service members on assignment to new duty stations along with training courses requiring travel outside of Italy for less than six months. Those with training courses longer than six months will be allowed to proceed and will have to travel two weeks early to undergo a quarantine period before their training.

The U.S. Army also stopped travel in and out of South Korea on Sunday as a result of ongoing coronavirus concerns in the country.

U.S. military bases have also variously acted as quarantine points for U.S. citizens returning from travel abroad.

The virus has continued to spread around the world, with the number of cases recently surpassing 100,000 patients. While the disease has primarily affected China, it has spread to many other countries and several deaths have already been reported in the U.S. so far.