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Army beginning increased virus screening for new recruits

Gideon Dalzell of Scranton does plate twists during a race as part of future soldier training with the U.S. Army Recruiting Station Scranton in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)
Gideon Dalzell of Scranton does plate twists during a race as part of future soldier training with the U.S. Army Recruiting Station Scranton in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Army on Tuesday began increased health screenings for all new soldier recruits arriving at the four basic training centers around the country in order to detect the new coronavirus, a senior commander said.

Army Gen. Paul Funk, head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said personnel at the bases spent Monday rehearsing the new screening and learning how to spot symptoms and interview recruits. The enhanced screening will affect as many at 1,000 recruits a week for the Army's active duty, National Guard and Reserve for the near future. That number will grow later this spring and summer as the number of new soldiers entering the service increases.

“We're using prudent measures to ensure we are screening,” Funk told a small groups of reporters at the Pentagon.

Under the new process, recruits will be asked a series of questions, including whether they have been to various parts of Asia, if they've been in contact with anyone who has the virus and whether they have had any of the symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat, stomach problems and muscle aches. They also will have their temperature taken.

If the soldiers say no to all the questions and don't have a temperature higher than 99.4 degrees, they will be allowed to move enter basic training.

If they say yes, exhibit symptoms or have a fever, medical personnel will separate them from the others and move them to heath care facilities on the bases. The four training bases are Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The Marine Corps said it has done some of the same things out of an abundance of caution to preserve the wellness of the force. According to Marine Capt. Christopher Harrison, preliminary screenings have been implemented for incoming recruits at the Marine Corps recruit depots. The Navy said there have been no changes to its screening process yet, and the Air Force had no information on any changes.

So far, no Army recruits have tested positive for coronavirus.