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Navy cuts spring physical fitness assessments amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Navy is postponing the spring cycle of the service’s physical fitness assessment in an attempt to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, according to the service.

“Ultimately, the intent of the Navy’s PFA and the associated physical readiness standards are to maintain a baseline level of physical fitness for Sailors,” Paul Rosen, acting director of the 21st Century Sailor Office that oversees the service’s physical readiness policy, said in a Navy news release Wednesday.

“This is a unique situation that calls for a unique response,” Rosen said. “We know the coronavirus is highly contagious, and unnecessarily increasing the risk of infection due to the close physical proximity required to complete the PFA is not in the best interest of our Sailors or our overall mission readiness.”

Per a Navy Administrative message issued Wednesday, the PFA for Cycle 1 of 2020 that runs from Jan. 1 to June 30 has been suspended immediately and covers the official Body Composition Assessment and Physical Readiness Test.

As a result, commands must stop PFA testing immediately and halt feeding information to the Physical Readiness Information Management System, in the event that testing is already in motion. For commands who have yet to start testing, the Navy is directing them to take no further action.

One-time extensions are also being issued for sailors with a Soft End of Active Obligated Service before July 30, and who are ineligible for retention or cannot reenlist due to previous PFA failures. But the extension cannot go past Sept. 30, per the NAVADMIN message.

Furthermore, organized group physical training is also discontinued, although some exceptions apply to recruit training and unit mission training requirements.

“All Navy commands are directed to immediately suspend all organized or group physical training (PT) (i.e. Command, Department or Division PT and the Fitness Enhancement Program) until further notice,” the NAVADMIN says.

The guidance comes as COVID-19 is spreading within the service and has infected at least eight sailors. Most recently, military medical investigators are looking into a pair of cases on the amphibious warship Boxer based out of San Diego, California.

The two sailors are remaining self-isolated at their personal residences off base, and no signs suggest that they infected each other.

“There is no indication that the sailors were in close contact with each other, but a thorough contact investigation continues,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Myers J. Vasquez told Navy Times.

Altogether, 49 service members from all branches of the military have contracted COVID-19 and seven of those have completely recovered, according to the Pentagon.

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