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Air Force Academy closing to visitors due to coronavirus; OTS graduation guests limited

The Air Force Academy will temporarily close to visitors beginning Friday evening as part of the service’s ongoing efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The academy, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said in a release Thursday that it now has no reported cases of COVID-19 and is taking this step as a precautionary measure. The closure will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

“While we understand this action will be disappointing to some, your health and safety as well as that of our military, civilian personnel, family members and base community is our top priority,” the academy said. “USAFA leadership will continue to evaluate the situation and take risk-based measures to safeguard our base community as well as our visitors.”

On-base residents, Air Academy High School students and faculty, Defense Department ID card holders, or anyone conducting official business will not be restricted from the academy, and gate hours will remain unchanged, the academy said.

And the Air Force said in a subsequent email Thursday that no spectators will be allowed at academy home games.

Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama also announced Wednesday evening that guests will not be allowed at some Officer Training School graduation events this week due to the coronavirus outbreak. The faculty-only awards ceremony and graduation ceremony will be live-streamed on the official OTS Facebook page.

“While there are no cases in Alabama, we are taking necessary precautions and follow risk-based measures consistent with guidance from the [Defense Department] and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Lt. Gen. James Hecker, commander and president of Air University, said in the release. “It is our responsibility to keep our airmen, our families and our communities safe.”

However, individual commissioning ceremonies, which are smaller gatherings, will still be open to guests.

“We regret having to make this decision, but are interested in keeping our airmen and their families safe,” OTS Commandant Col. Peter Bailey said. “We are allowing guests at individual commissioning ceremonies as those are smaller events, in line with CDC guidelines.”

The Air Force has taken several steps to encourage “social distancing” and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 this week. On Tuesday, for example, Air Education and Training Command said that family members and other guests would not be allowed at basic military training graduation events until further notice.

AETC also said in an email Thursday that on- and off-base liberty for basic military training graduates has been canceled.

“Airmen will depart for their technical training school shortly after BMT graduation,” AETC spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday said. “Joint Base San Antonio leaders and health professionals are evaluating the situation daily. These actions are taken out of an abundance of caution, in order to minimize the risk to our airmen, their families and the community. These decisions were not made lightly and will remain in place only as long as necessary to protect the force and the community.”

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