COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — All cadets at the Air Force Academy will return to the Colorado Springs campus in the fall, making the university one of the first in the country to return during the coronavirus pandemic, federal officials said.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper declared Thursday that military training pipelines are "mission essential," meaning that all cadets are expected to return within the next week, KCNC-TV reported. The entire cadet wing, making up about 4,000 students, will be back on campus by the end of the month.
Classes are scheduled to begin in August in person and online. Outdoor classes and smaller class sizes are expected to help manage distancing guidelines.
The order came after academy leaders sent cadets from the lower three classes home in March to finish the year online and kept the remaining senior class on campus, spreading them out across emptied dormitories.
The Academy has announced plans to test cadets for COVID-19 multiple times over their first two weeks on campus, including the day they arrive and 7, 10 and 14 days after arriving, officials said. Random tests will be conducted, and anyone who tests positive will be immediately quarantined.
Academy leaders also announced that 400 healthy cadets will be housed in hotels for the fall semester under all normal campus policies, as long as necessary to open up space on campus. Food and transportation plans have not yet been announced.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.