The Marine recruit depot aboard Parris Island, South Carolina, is halting the arrival of new recruits as COVID-19 continues to disrupt military planning and operations, the recruit training installation announced Monday.
Parris Island said in a news release that in the future incoming recruits will enter a 14-day “staging period” where they will undergo a medical screening and be provided classes before stepping on the yellow footprints — the beginning step to becoming a Marine.
Parris Island did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the halt to incoming recruits or an update on the number of recruits and drill instructors aboard the recruit depot who have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, the Corps acknowledged two recruits and two other Marines aboard the depot had tested positive for COVID-19.
In its release Monday, Parris Island said aggressive actions the depot has taken beyond the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have helped prevent the virus but it has also yielded “additional results” of recruits and staff who have the virus.
“The manner in which we recruit and train has been examined, with many modifications already made, and they will continue to be made as the situation requires,” the depot said in its release.
The Corps has made a number of modifications aboard both the East Coast depot and the West Coast depot in San Diego, California, to include canceling public graduations and adjusting training to implement social distancing guidelines.
The depots are trying to implement social distancing guidelines when possible. That includes spacing out bunks in the squad bays aboard Parris Island to allow six feet of separation or assigning a recruit to every other bunk at the San Diego depot, according to statements from both Marine recruit depots.
Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, says the smaller companies during this time of year allows the recruits to space out between every other bunk, providing extra space for the recruits to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Spacing 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 them for morning chow and follow-on training.
Capt. Bryan McDonnell, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, said the South Carolina-based recruit depot had also opened up chow facilities to give recruits and training companies more space.
There’s also preliminary screening efforts occurring at the depots and prior to shipping to boot camp during in-processing at Military Entrance Processing Stations.
“Recruits are being screened for high-risk of exposure and fever or common flu-like symptoms prior to shipping to recruit training and MEPS and again once they arrive,” Harris told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
“The medical staff here is working very hard to ensure that each recruit is screened and understands the symptoms and preventative measures,” Harris said.
Parris Island says it has “modified” Sunday religious services to include prerecording sermons to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Social distancing is occurring where possible during outdoor training, in classrooms, religious services, and the recruit mess hall, which is made possible because of the smaller companies this time of year.” Harris said about efforts aboard the San Diego depot.
At Parris Island, classes that run up to training day 11 and are normally taught as a company at the Recruit Training Facility, are now being taught in the company squad bay by an academic instructor.
“This is in an effort to reduce the overall size of gatherings as well as reduce the use of the Recruit Training Facility by first-phase recruits,” McDonnell told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.