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Coronavirus testing reveals dozens of cases at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

A new recruit with India Company, 3rd Recruit training Battalion, is medically screened after arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, April 27, 2020.

CPL. BROOKE C. WOODS/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 29, 2020

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WASHINGTON — Nearly 50 recruits and staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the second outbreak to hit a Marines basic training base.

The cases at the Marines' West Coast training base are among recruits in one unit — Bravo Company — and some of the company’s drill instructors and staff, according to Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Last month, the Marines' East Coast basic training base at Parris Island, S.C., also had a few dozen cases among new recruits, causing them to temporarily stop new recruits from traveling to the base for training.

Harris on Wednesday would only confirm about four dozen people tested positive for the virus at the San Diego base. He would not give an exact number.

The recruits in Bravo Company arrived at the depot at the end of March just as more restrictions were established in response to the coronavirus, according to Harris. The company is one of nine recruit companies at the depot.

The recruits’ movement was restricted for about a week after they arrived at the depot, staying near their living quarters and using one classroom to limit their exposure to the other training companies before their own official training started. 

Commanders at both recruit depots are developing their own restriction of movement protocols for recruits based on their facilities and capacity, according to Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

The Citadel announced Monday that Marine recruits traveling to Parris Island will first report to the college campus for two weeks of observation for the coronavirus before they go to the base. The Marines reached out to the college because their current staging operation with tents will not meet their needs once hurricane season starts in June, according to a Citadel statement.

In San Diego, the first case was identified in one of Bravo Company’s six platoons in early April after training had started. When more cases in the unit were identified, the entire company was put into a 14-day quarantine.

When the quarantine concluded last week, the recruits in the platoon with the first case were all tested for the coronavirus because the depot had “an increased capability of testing,” Harris said. The testing found almost 50 positive results among asymptomatic recruits, he said.

Brig. Gen. Ryan Heritage, the commanding general for the recruit depot, decided all of Bravo Company were to be tested “to make sure every one of them is healthy before they go back and to start training,” Harris said.

More cases are expected to be found in Bravo Company as the testing continues, he said. No one testing positive has been hospitalized.

The depot will next test two other companies now in quarantine -- Echo and India — who are waiting for their training to begin. They will test all future recruits when they come to the depot, according to Harris.

“It seems like that will be the new norm,” he said.

Adm. Robert Burke, vice chief of naval operations, wrote in a service message April 20 that quarantining or isolating Navy personnel for 21 days will give them a 99% chance of being  of the virus by the end of the period, compared to 95% at 14 days.

Harris said the medical staff at the recruit depot is looking at making recommendations based the Navy’s guidance and are adapting to changes as they develop with the virus.

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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