The U.S. Air Force Academy upped its Health Protection Condition to level Charlie as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to increase.

The decision to upgrade from HPCON Bravo to HPCON Charlie means that the risk is substantial and there has been sustained community transmission. The HPCON level above Charlie is Delta — the highest ranking for disease outbreaks — and means that the risk is severe and there has been widespread community transmission.

“Stay safe by limiting your interaction outside your home…stay in touch by reaching out virtually and contacting friends, family and each other to combat any feeling of isolation…and stay flexible as we find our ‘new normal in the coming days and weeks,” Col. Brian Hartless, commander of the 10th Air Base Wing, wrote in a letter Tuesday to the service academy community.

The 10th Air Base Wing is the host wing for the Air Force Academy.

The guidance says that in-person meetings and social gatherings will be limited, and working remotely will be “maximized.” Likewise, it bars handshaking, and encourages regular handwashing.

Additionally, the Air Force Academy must also follow all policies that started on March 16 under HPCON Bravo, such as cutting back on time in common areas and leaving doors slightly open to reduce the number of surfaces people must touch.

Even so, the base Exchange and Commissary will stay open, although hours will be modified. For now, the Air Force Academy is remaining open for official business “until further notice.”

The guidance comes as Air Force Academy cadets are slated to start remote learning on March 25 and conclude the academic school year.

“The Academy’s goal is to get the class of 2020 to meet all graduation requirements in a timely manner and join the Air and Space Forces as commissioned officers this summer,” the Air Force Academy said on its COVID-19 information site.

Even so, the service academy still has to hash out graduation plans for 2020 in light of the pandemic.

Colorado has reported nearly 600 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 34 airmen across the service have contracted the virus as of Sunday evening, according to the Air Force’s latest estimate.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Tuesday that 174 service members have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

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