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Naval Academy cancels public worship services, weddings, funerals to slow coronavirus spread

The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

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By THE CAPITAL, ANNAPOLIS, MD. Published: March 14, 2020

Read more coronavirus coverage from Stars and Stripes.

(Tribune News Service) — The Naval Academy announced Friday that it would immediately cancel all public worship services, including weddings and funerals, through April 7 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a statement posted on the academy website, officials detailed a number of new restrictions that also include closing the crypt of Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones beneath the Naval Academy Chapel. Other changes included an end to most public tours and closing the visitor center.

"We will revisit this decision on a regular basis based on the health protection environment. We hope to resume providing support to a variety of faith communities in the near future," the statement read.

Wedding and memorial coordinators are reaching out to families affected by the decision.

The changes are the latest at the academy in response to the global pandemic now spreading across the United States. In addition to restrictions put in place for all military forces and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday afternoon.

Seven more people in Maryland have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the state's total number of confirmed cases to 19, officials said Friday. Two cases have been reported in Anne Arundel County, including one woman who is a resident of Montana whose illness is being counted as part of that state's total.

Vice Adm. Sean Buck, academy superintendent, this week extended spring break by two weeks for midshipmen.

In a letter sent to parents Thursday, Buck laid out his priorities in responding to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"My strategic goals for addressing COVID-19 are twofold: 1) protect our midshipmen, faculty, staff, and coaches, and slow down COVID-19, as we are planning for the likelihood of it being transmitted here; 2) complete the semester, and graduate and commission the class of 2020," he wrote.

Letter From U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent to Parents (PDF)

Letter From U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent to Parents (Text)

Other closings announced Friday included the Naval Academy Visitor Center and Gift Shop. Tours will be canceled except for pre-scheduled private group tours will be held outdoors and with modified group sizes.

Coffee shops and restaurants, including the recently opened 1845 Coffee Shop at Gate 3, and a number of other services will be curtailed, limited to midshipmen only or have restricted hours.

Candidate visitation weekends set for March as well as the Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony and a faculty promotion ceremony have been postponed.

The annual Forrestal Lecture, McCain Conference, Safety at Sea Seminar and the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs conferences are among the events canceled. Several concerts and sporting events, such as the Navy-Johns Hopkins lacrosse game, also have been scrapped.

The admissions office will scale back or postpone travel through at least mid-April.

"We are providing the Admissions Brief virtually in lieu of face-to-face public briefings," the academy said.

In his letter to parents, Buck wrote that further changes are in discussion for the midshipmen when they return.

"We are currently discussing mitigation measures throughout USNA which will affect the daily life of midshipmen, to include dining arrangements in King Hall, academic classes, physical fitness, events, etc., as well as planning for the reintegration of the midshipmen," he wrote.

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