US Air Force Academy to Bring All Students Back to Campus

The U.S. Air Force Academy will bring in its entire student body back to the Colorado Springs campus this fall, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, under Pentagon orders that declare all accession sources and training pipelines to be mission essential.

Cadets will begin returning to campus early next week, with the entire student body back by the end of the July—making the Academy one of the first universities to have its entire contingent of students back on campus, according to a USAFA release.

To counter the pandemic, the Academy will test cadets multiple times over two weeks—on their first day back, one week after returning, 10 days after, and 14 days after stepping foot on campus. After this, there will be random testing. If any cadets tests positive, they will be put into quarantine along with those with whom they have been in close contact. The Academy is also creating more space for social distancing in training, classes, and living arrangements, having reserved space in local hotels for about 400 cadets.

Classes will begin in mid-August, a combination of both in-person and online. In-person classes could include moving outdoors, or using labs or small groups to allow for more distancing, according to the USAFA release.

To prepare for the return of students, an Academy team of faculty members developed a testing model system to determine the likelihood of a “runaway” outbreak and what steps could be used to mitigate the potential of the spread. The model, created with input from groups such as the Colorado Department of Public Health, local officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and broader Air Force, determined that positive cases were within the 1-2 percent expected level, and could be cared for, the release states.

The Academy this month confirmed an undisclosed number of COVID-19-positive cases on campus.