COVID-19 has grounded the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds after personnel tested positive for the virus.
For the first time in 65 years, the fighter jet demonstration team was forced to cancel their participation in the annual Wings Over Warren Airshow at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. The rest of the show will continue as scheduled on July 22.
Nellis Air Force Base, headquarters for the Thunderbirds, posted an official statement on Thursday explaining the cancellation.
“Every year we look forward to performing at the site of our first public demonstration for our friends, family and the Cheyenne community,” the official statement said. “This was not an easy decision, but we felt it was necessary to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after a few of our team members recently tested positive.”
According to The Associated Press, the Air Force is prohibited from saying how many personnel has the virus and their conditions due to federal regulations, but a Thunderbirds spokeswoman Capt. Remoshay Nelson confirmed that none of the infected individuals are pilots.
The individuals who tested positive will self-isolate for 14 days, and the team will resume flying next week. Public health officials are also using contact tracing to determine if anyone else has the virus, Nelson said.
“Our primary focus is ensuring the health and welfare of our personnel so we can safeguard our mission readiness and capabilities,” Nelson reportedly told The Associated Press by email.
The majority of the Thunderbirds’ scheduled shows have been canceled this year due to widespread public health orders banning large crowds. The event in Cheyenne was originally part of the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo festival. Frontier Days has suffered the same fate as many other similar events across the country; it is canceled for the first time in 124 years because of COVID-19.
“At this time, our primary focus is ensuring the health and welfare of our personnel so we can safeguard our mission readiness to perform world-class demonstrations in the near future,” Nellis AFB official statement said. “We sincerely appreciate the F.E. Warren Air Force Base leadership and Cheyenne community for their continued support and understanding; and wish them a safe and successful show.
The Thunderbirds have recently flown over several U.S. cities in an effort to unify Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform in an Ocean City, Md., air show on August 15-16.