Marine recruits are always nervous opening mail in front of their drill instructors, and now they may have something to be more worried about — the possibility of getting COVID-19 or passing the virus through the mail.
A Marine aboard the Parris Island, South Carolina, depot sounded the alarm that recruits at boot camp were still receiving mail and packages, potentially jeopardizing service-members and staff.
But Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, told Marine Corps Times that there have been no discussions yet to halt mail deliveries to recruits there.
And maybe with good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts believe contracting COVID-19 through the mail is unlikely and a low risk, according to a report from the New York Times.
“The C.D.C. has advised that there is a low risk of transmission on packages,” Matthew O’Conner, a spokesman for U.P.S. FedEx, told the New York Times. “The guidance from the W.H.O. [World Health Organization] is that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”
Spaced out bunks adds a little bit of extra room for maneuvering for heavy-eyed recruits scrambling early in the morning to get on line as the drill instructor readies recruits for morning chow and follow-on training.
A recent medical study appears to suggest that the virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, doesn’t last long when placed on cardboard.
According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, there was “no viable” SARS-CoV-2 measured after 24 hours when it was placed on cardboard.
“In that light, you might expect the virus to remain viable for hours but probably not days on mail,” James Lloyd-Smith, one of the authors of the study, told the New York Times.
According to the CDC, the virus is believed to mainly spread from person to person within six feet of each other “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes" — hence social distancing guidelines that call for people to stay at least six feet apart.
The Parris Island recruit depot is continuing to operate as normal for the most part while the depot attempts to implement social distancing and other protective guidelines advocated by health experts across the globe.
That includes spacing out bunks in the squad bays aboard Parris Island and opening up chow facilities to give recruits and training companies more space, McDonnell told Marine Corps Times.
No recruits or drill instructors aboard the Parris Island recruit depot have tested positive for COVID-19. But last week, two Marines stationed on the base tested positive for the virus, McDonnell confirmed. The two Marines work in offices separate from recruit training.
McDonnell said the Marines were already in quarantine when they were notified of their results and they remain in isolation in their residence.
Personnel with whom the service members had identified as being in close contact with were notified and are in self-quarantine and will receive a medical assessment, McDonnell explained. Their work spaces have been thoroughly decontaminated, he said.
“The safety and well-being of our recruits, drill instructors, permanent personnel and their families remains our top priority. Our Marines will continue to be proactive by maintaining clean office spaces, avoiding gatherings of large crowds, and ensuring proper hygiene,” McDonnell said.
“Like the rest of our community and communities across the nation, we have individuals pursuing tests and those who are in self-quarantine following travel,” he explained.
According to the CDC there are 298 cases of COVID-19 across South Carolina.