CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Administrators, staff and cadets at The Citadel are gearing up to welcome back the core of the academy this weekend when sophomores, juniors and seniors set foot on the neatly trimmed grass of Summerall Field. It is the moment decision-makers have been planning since cadets were sent home early last spring because of the coronavirus.
Retired Colonel John Dorrian is the Vice President for Communications and Marketing for the Citadel. He says before anyone arrives, they must be tested.
“Right now, we have more than 1,300 cadets on campus. We expect roughly 1,000 more to return over the weekend,” Dorrian said. “We have testing capacity here to make sure that we identify anybody that has the COVID virus so we can quarantine them and any of their close contacts.”
The academy has the capacity to quarantine 132 people. Just like everyone else, they are trying to mitigate the potential spread of the virus by spacing out arrival time over the course of an entire day instead of just a few hours and by requiring face covers. Each cadet will receive four facemasks as part of their uniform.
“We are able to put in place rules that the cadets will follow, and they help us by holding each other accountable. That’s just part of cadet life,” Dorrian said. “Every single one of them signed up to come here knowing that life is hard, and they have all returned knowing that life is going to be harder yet. That’s the kind of grit for which the college is known.”
In addition to the staggered arrival times and face masks, the academy has purchased cleaning materials and are asking the public to stay off the campus as much as possible. The request is aimed at creating a semi-permeable bubble to keep cadets and staff safe.
“We have a mix of classroom technology that we have put in place that will help us maintain social distance while they are in class,” Dorrian said. “We have also put in place very aggressive cleaning measures and technology so people can sanitize work or study areas or their rooms. We have dispersed that technology across campus. It’s something we feel very strongly about.”
Despite precautions, there have been 70 COVID-19 infections at the academy. There are 27 active cases in quarantine and 43 have recovered.
“The overwhelming preponderance of those cadets are asymptomatic, and we expect to get roughly half of them out of quarantine in the next day or so,” Dorrian said.
The Citadel publicly tracks cases and you can find more information on their safety precautions here: Operation Fall Return 2020