A Navy recruit has become the first confirmed case of COVID-19 at the service’s Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, Navy officials said.
The recruit has been moved into isolation and is receiving care at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, officials said.
“Military health professionals are conducting a thorough contact investigation to determine whether any other personnel may have been in close contact and possibly exposed,” the base announced Sunday on its Facebook page.
“Personnel identified as having close contact with the recruit are being notified, placed in a restriction of movement status and tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution. The barracks and other areas that the recruit came in contact with are being thoroughly cleaned in accordance with CDC disinfectant and sanitation guidelines.”
The first case of coronavirus emerging over the weekend at RTC comes after last week’s news that the Navy would be locking the base down for up to 90 days — with staff forced to remain — in an effort to stymie the pandemic’s spread among recruits.
The recruit who tested positive arrived approximately one week before this policy was instituted, the service said.
“RTC recognizes this will place additional burden on its Sailors, who are already performing an arduous mission during their shore duty, and together with their families, trying to navigate this national crisis,” Naval Service Training Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Martin wrote in an email to Navy Times.
“We understand and greatly appreciate the sacrifice these Sailors and their families are making, but given the extraordinary circumstances we are in, this action must be taken to ensure the ability to protect our recruits and staff while creating basically trained Sailors.”
In addition to the Navy’s measure of a base lock down, all incoming recruits must enter a 14-day restriction of movement period upon arrival at Great Lakes.
During that time, recruits are instructed to sleep at least six feet apart and adhere to a "strict hygiene policy, increased social distancing when possible, and adjustment of staff procedures to limit potential spread and contamination,” Martin told Navy Times.
After completion of the 14-day restriction period, recruits resume standard training, including marching in close formation.
“The Navy is committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force,” Recruit Training Command’s Facebook post said. “We remain in close coordination with state and federal authorities, and public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and the local population.”
Trainees who test positive for COVID-19 and subsequently move into isolation will be permitted to contact family, the Facebook post said.
“While a positive COVID-19 test is not desirable, RTC was prepared for this situation and have both the facilities and medical support to quarantine those affected and maintain the safety of our overall Recruit Training Command force.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.