U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – The Secretary of Defense has designated all accession sources and military training pipelines as mission essential. The U.S. Air Force Academy, as one of those key Air Force accession sources, will be one of the first universities in the nation to have its entire student body on campus by the end of July.
In the next week, the remaining cadets will be returning to the Academy. The safety of cadets, staff and the entire USAFA community, as well as the Colorado Springs community, remains our number one priority.
USAFA will accomplish this by:
- Testing cadets for COVID multiple times in their first 2 weeks on campus on days 0, 7, 10 and 14
- Providing random cadet testing going forward to identify any potential asymptomatic cases in the earliest stages possible
- Maintaining Quarantine and Isolation space for cadets with positive tests, symptoms or close contact with positive cases
- Creating space for social distancing when planning military training, classes, cadet living arrangements and other activities
Classes at USAFA will start around mid-August and will combine in-person and online learning. In-person classes may use creative solutions possibly involving outdoor classes, using larger classrooms for smaller classes, and accomplishing labs and other hands-on coursework in small groups to accommodate the proper social distancing space, while carrying out the Academy mission of training future Air Force and Space Force leaders.
The mechanics of how to bring the entire student body back to USAFA was a daunting challenge, made possible with inputs from the Pandemic Math Team and Public Health recommendations, including USAFA, Colorado Department of Public Health, local public health officials, Air Force and Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
The Pandemic Math Team (PMT) is a cross-functional collection of experts in statistics, mathematical modeling, biology, virology, and public health. The Department of Faculty team developed and modeled a COVID-19 testing program to mitigate the potential of a “run-away” outbreak at the Academy and give leadership policy tools and trigger points to adapt to changing conditions in real time.
Their predictive analytics, along with advisement of public health professionals, allowed USAFA to be free of community spread of COVID-19, even as cadets were brought in from across the nation. Positive cases were well within the predicted 1-2% expected and USAFA’s ability to properly house and care for them.
COVID-19 positive numbers are right around where the PMT calculated they would be and, because of the work they did, USAFA had adequate Quarantine and Isolation space available for the inevitable positive tests and contact cases associated with bringing the Cadet Wing back to USAFA, including the Class of 2024. The team has briefed their work to Headquarters Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as, continuing to share data with other service academies and universities in Colorado.
In order to maintain adequate Quarantine and Isolation space in the USAFA dormitories, USAFA officials knew alternative housing for a select group of healthy cadets was going to be necessary going forward as approximately 4,000 cadets return to the Academy from every Congressional district in the U.S.
The Air Force Academy will house approximately 400 cadets in hotels off base for the fall semester, and possibly longer as the pandemic situation evolves. The Academy is pleased to partner with the Colorado Springs business community in finding a solution to housing cadets to maintain a safe and healthy training and academic environment.
The select group of healthy cadets living off-base will be subject the same stringent military training and academic standards, and safety protocols as the cadets remaining on base. Academy supervision will be at the hotels as well. Transportation and food options are still being considered.
The ongoing global pandemic is an evolving situation and, based on the environment, details could change rapidly.
Cadets will be returning to the U.S. Air Force Academy July 26-27. The safety of cadets, staff and and the Colorado Springs community remains the Academy's top priority. (U.S. Air Force photo / Trevor Cokley)