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COVID-19 monitoring and response among U.S. Air Force basic military trainees — Texas, March–April 2020
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  • Description:
    What is already known about this topic?: Substantial COVID-19 transmission has been documented in some congregate living settings. What is added by this report?: Nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI) introduced among 10,579 basic trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland limited COVID-19 incidence to five cases (47 per 100,000 persons), three of which were in persons who were contacts of the first patient. What are the implications for public health practice?: Despite documented outbreaks of COVID-19 in congregate settings, implementation of NPIs, including screening, testing, administrative measures, quarantine, isolation, and source control, can limit transmission of symptomatic COVID-19 and ensure continuity of critical activities. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in substantial morbidity and mortality since it was first described in December 2019 (1). Based on epidemiologic data showing spread in congregate settings (2–4), national, state, and local governments instituted significant restrictions on large gatherings to prevent transmission of disease in early March 2020. This and other nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) have shown initial success in slowing the pandemic across the country (5). This report examines the first 7 weeks (March 1–April 18) of implementation of NPIs in Basic Military Training (BMT) at a U.S. Air Force base. In a population of 10,579 trainees, COVID-19 incidence was limited to five cases (47 per 100,000 persons), three of which were in persons who were contacts of the first patient. Transmission of symptomatic COVID-19 was successfully limited using strategies of quarantine, social distancing, early screening of trainees, rapid isolation of persons with suspected cases, and monitored reentry into training for trainees with positive test results after resolution of symptoms. BMT is the first step in the accession of airmen into the USAF. Approximately 40,000 new airmen are trained each year at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland (JBSA) in Texas with an average of approximately 800 trainees arriving per week. Approximately 75% of incoming trainees are male, and most are in their late teens or early 20s. These trainees are prescreened for underlying medical conditions and are generally in good overall health. Training involves classroom lectures, small group activities, and field exercises. Each training cohort (flight) consists of 50 persons who live in communal, open-bay quarters and perform all daily and training activities as a group. For accountability and safety purposes, trainees are never alone, performing every activity with at least one fellow trainee. In recent decades, outbreaks of respiratory illnesses caused by pathogens such as adenovirus serotype B14 in 2007 have occurred during BMT, resulting in head-to-toe bunk arrangements, regular cleaning of shared equipment, and active syndromic surveillance for respiratory illness (6). Suggested citation for this article: Marcus JE, Frankel DN, Pawlak MT, et al. COVID-19 Monitoring and Response Among U.S. Air Force Basic Military Trainees — Texas, March–April 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 2 June 2020. mm6922e2-H.pdf
  • Content Notes:
    Diagnostic Testing Strategy -- Nonpharmaceutical Interventions -- COVID-19 Cases -- Discussion -- Acknowledgments.
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