The Marine Corps has ended the mandatory 14-day quarantine recruits had to complete before starting boot camp.
In the end of March 2020, breakouts of the potentially deadly COVID-19 at recruit training caused Parris Island, South Carolina, to temporarily stop receiving new recruits for a short period of time. While at San Diego, recruit shipping numbers were cut in half for April 2020.
In an effort to resume normal shipping numbers and prevent any future breakouts, the Corps introduced a two-week quarantine period in April 2020, along with mask requirements and increased social distancing. Now, the quarantine period has been dropped.
“Restriction of Movement (ROM) based on COVID-19 concerns ended at both depots at different times based on local factors at each individual depot,” Capt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command, told Marine Corps Times in a Wednesday email.
Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, ended its quarantine period on July 11, while Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego ended the requirement on Aug. 9, Stephenson said.
The change was made even as the COVID-19 death rate for Department of Defense personnel skyrocketed through August and into September.
Marine Corps Sgt. Edmar Ismael, 27, of 2nd Marine Logistics Group at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, became the first Marine to die of the virus on Aug. 14.
The rush to locate a quarantine site saw some recruits head to The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.
It also put a strain on the Corps’ finances.
In July 2020, Gen. William F. Mullen, then commanding general for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told reporters that a $10 billion supplemental fund passed by Congress played a key part in allowing the Marine Corps to continue training and afford off-base quarantine locations.
Mullen did say at the time that he was concerned that if a cheaper option was not found, the command may run into a budget shortfall by the end of the year.
Despite the budget concerns, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger testified before Congress in December 2020 that the Corps was considering keeping the quarantine long after the COVID-19 pandemic ended to help fight off “recruit crud” ― sicknesses that inevitably come when tired recruits are living and training with so many new people from all over.
“Typically, every officer candidate class, every recruit training class, gets some kind of crud in the first two weeks and it shuts them down,” Berger told lawmakers with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 2, 2020.
Stephenson said the Corps still has not made a decision on whether or not it would extend the restriction of movement period in the future.
Though the quarantine period at both depots is currently ended, Stephenson said the Corps is still taking precautions to ensure the safety of all Marines, recruits and civilians at the recruit depot.
“To ensure the safety and well-being of recruits, permanent personnel, and our families, all preventive medical procedures such as masking, regular temperature checks, and targeted quarantine and isolation for infected individuals remain in place,” he said in the email.
The Marine Corps has required all Marine Corps personnel, unless medically or administratively exempt, to be vaccinated against the coronavirus within 90 days of Sept. 1.