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Army Resuming Basic Training With Measures Against Coronavirus Exposure

The Army has announced it is again shipping recruits to basic training, following a two-week pause that was put in place to make sure COVID-19 mitigation measures were operating at all four Army training centers.

But in order to make that happen, and protect the health of the new recruits, the Army says it will adhere to social distancing guidelines. Officials said that basic training will operate at "a reduced capacity," but did not offer specifics.

And the Army will be focused on where those recruits come from to lower any risk of an outbreak. Officials say recruits from areas considered "low risk" will be allowed to move to the training bases, but those from "high risk areas will be rescheduled for future dates."

At the same time, the Army is putting in more safeguards for the recruits. In the two weeks leading up to their scheduled ship dates, they will be screened for symptoms and possible exposure to COVID-19 at various intervals by recruiters and military entrance processing station personnel. The recruits will also be evaluated upon their arrival at the training centers.

During the first two weeks at the training centers, recruits will undergo what the Army calls "modified training curriculums" and will be closely monitored with daily health assessments. Much of the classroom training will be shifted to the first 14 days so the recruits can be monitored.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy recently said there was a cluster of positive cases at one of the training centers before the recruit training pause was put into effect.

"One training battalion at Fort Jackson, S.C., had about 50, and had no more since then," McCarthy said. "We've done pretty well overall, all things considered, one location."

Just last week, the Pentagon's top officer, Army General Mark Milley, said he plans to dramatically increase virus testing from the current nearly 9,000 tests per day to 60,000 tests by the end of May or early June.

He said that effort was especially needed for those serving in what he called "tighter quarters," including recruits.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.