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Marines considering waivers for combat fitness tests to protect against COVID-19 spread

Noncommissioned officers with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit toss medicine balls during a Force Fitness Instructor led High Intensity Tactical Training session at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, June 8, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish/Released)
October 24, 2020

Individual Marines, or entire units of Marines, may receive waivers for semi-annual combat fitness tests if commanders determine testing sites cannot adapt to safety measures meant to protect against COVID-19.

The Corps is implementing measures to help mitigate the virus’ spread, including screening Marines, disinfecting equipment, mandating face masks, and taking their temperatures prior to testing, 1st Lt. Pawel Puczko reportedly said in an email to Stars and Stripes.

Marines who are at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus, or who share quarters with someone who is at an increased risk, may apply for waivers, Puczko said. Waivers will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Commanders across the Marine Corps will be able to issue both combat fitness test and physical fitness test waivers.

Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger ordered all fitness testing to cease in April amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Corps resumed its physical fitness and combat fitness tests last month and Marines will have until the end of December to finish the tests, a September 21 memo stated.

“The health and safety of our Marines is always a top priority,” Puczko said. “Commands across III MEF have demonstrated their dedication to keeping Marines and families safe from COVID-19 through diligent planning and implementation of safety protocols.”

According to the official Marine Corps website, social distancing is difficult to achieve during combat fitness tests, particularly during one event that requires Marines to drag and carry each other.

The Air Force has completely postponed its physical fitness tests until next year, and body composition measurements like waist, height, and weight are delayed until further notice.

Airmen will still receive the highest possible points for the “abdominal circumference” aspect of their official score.

“We know people are staying fit regardless, but we want to give our Airmen enough time to prepare,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said.

The Army and Navy have also suspended their physical fitness tests until further notice.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was diagnosed on January 20 in Washington. Symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell.

According to The New York Times, as of October 21, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is 8.46 million. Roughly .03 percent of cases in the U.S. have been fatal, totaling 223,000.