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New Marine recruits back at Parris Island after coronavirus suspended arrivals

Marine Corps recruits gather at Recruit Depot Parris Island in this file photo.

U.S. MARINE CORPS

By STEPHEN FASTENAU | The Island Packet | Published: April 23, 2020

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HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Tribune News Service) —Marine recruits are again coming to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island after new arrivals had been paused due to coronavirus.

Two companies totaling 300-500 male and female recruits that arrived this week will be quarantined for 14 days, Marine Corps Capt. Bryan McDonnell said. The quarantine period includes medical checks twice a day and recorded classes to begin boot camp.

The base announced it would suspend receiving new recruits March 30 to assess protocols after the coronavirus spread and numerous cases were reported.

Training has continued on the base throughout the pandemic.

“It’s an evolving situation that everyone is dealing with,” McDonnell said. “We’re going to continue our mission of making Marines.”

The number of new recruits arriving at depots for Marine boot camp on Parris Island and in San Diego, California, has been halved, the Marine Corps said in a video posted Wednesday. New recruits arrived on Parris Island on Monday and new batch of recruits report to San Diego next week.

Marine Corps leaders say they are following measures to prevent the virus from arriving with new recruits, including screening at recruiting stations and asking recruits to isolate themselves for 14 days before leaving for boot camp. Recruits and drill instructors wear masks. Drill formations and eating and sleeping arrangements have also been changed to allow for more distance between people.

Some close-contact exercises, such as martial arts, continue out of necessity, officials say.

Some martial arts exercises are done with masks and some without. Recruits begin martial arts training about 30 days after they arrive, McDonnell said.

Graduation ceremonies after the 12-week training are closed to the public and new Marines travel directly to their next duty station to continue training instead of being allowed the standard 10-day leave.

The exact number of coronavirus cases at the base is unknown — the Pentagon directed military bases to stop publicly reporting numbers.

More than three dozen cases had been reported to state health officials from Parris Island’s postal code of 29905 before the cases were shifted into an “unknown” category in public reporting from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The cases were later consolidated with another zip code because 29905 corresponded only to a mailing address and not a specific population, the health agency said.

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©2020 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)
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