The Navy’s boot camp is barring the public from attending graduations beginning Friday amid concerns about the spread of a potentially deadly strain of coronavirus, Navy Recruit Training Command spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Martin announced Monday.
Guest attendance is also being suspended at Officer Candidate School graduations as well as from other officer training programs until further notice.
Between several hundred to more than a 1,000 sailors graduate weekly from the Navy’s boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois.
Officer graduations are less frequent and the ceremonies smaller, but Martin told Navy Times that a program is planned for March 20 with about 80 candidates.
While the graduations will continue, they will be live-streamed on Navy platforms, including social media. Those affected are allowed to call their would-be guests and inform them about the changes sparked by the global coronavirus outbreak.
Martin said in an email that the action is being taken out of “an abundance of caution” for the welfare of sailors and their guests.
The Naval Service Training Command — which oversees the recruit boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes as well as the Officer Training Command in Newport, Rhode Island — “will continue to monitor the situation and consult with medical experts to decide when it is appropriate to resume guest attendance at graduation ceremonies,” Martin said.
“There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students at either command, and both have robust screening processes in place for those who arrive each week.”
Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Clay Doss also told Navy Times on Monday that between about 20 to 30 sailors in Da Nang, Vietnam for a port visit tested negative for coronavirus.
They were tested for the disease because they stayed in a hotel that housed two British citizens who tested positive for the infection over the weekend.
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill stopped in Da Nang for a port call on March 5.
In late February, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John C. “Lung” Aquilino directed all vessels visiting nations in the 7th Fleet area of operations “to remain at sea for at least 14 days before pulling into another port in order to monitor sailors for any symptoms" of COVID-19.
Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.