Academy Operations Update - March 12, 2021
March 12, 2021
MEMORANDUM FOR All Academy Personnel
SUBJECT: Academy Operations Update
The COVID-19 public health emergency continues to impact the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and its midshipmen. As you know, we recently experienced a spike in positive COVID-19 test results and PUIs, and in accordance with NYS requirements, we suspended liberty and restricted midshipmen to their barracks. This has been one of the most challenging weeks during the COVID emergency and we wanted to update you on the status of the midshipmen and how we are adjusting restrictions as the COVID-positive numbers fluctuate.
Working closely with our partners at Northwell Health, and based on our most recent COVID testing, and the anticipated medical release of previously positive midshipmen, we intend to incrementally increase the amount of on-campus, outside movement afforded to the regiment. The Commandant’s Office and the regimental midshipmen leadership team have developed a protocol for these increases and will communicate that directly to the regiment as the weekend progresses. Liberty and the off-campus running program remain suspended. Delivery pick-ups outside the front gate are authorized. Midshipmen are reminded that mask wear and social distancing are required at all times.
We appreciate all the communication we are receiving from parents and midshipmen. Last Monday and Tuesday, we conducted lengthy Zoom meetings with each of the classes. During those meetings we answered questions and identified items requiring further research or attention. We are still looking into some of those questions, but we are confident we have dealt with all the immediate issues brought to our attention by the midshipmen, and we appreciate the thoroughness of the discussions. We are working with midshipmen leadership to address some items that may affect the regiment as a whole, and we look forward to resolving them in the near future. The dialog and discussions were extremely valuable, and we value the perspectives from our midshipmen and other stakeholders.
We would like to share updated information about some recent developments:
- COVID Testing: We conducted COVID testing for the regiment yesterday. All but a few tests have been returned and we are informed that there are less than 40 new positive tests across the regiment. We expected this. Reducing the presence of COVID on campus will be a gradual endeavor, so the new positives are relatively good news. While we are concerned for those newly identified as positive, we have space for them to quarantine and a plan to get them isolated today. We will ensure these midshipmen get the opportunity to get outside for fresh air during their quarantine period and have ready access to meals, beverages and fresh fruit.
In addition to shifting finals to the week of March 22, the Academic department has also front-loaded those finals that can be taken virtually to Monday and Tuesday (March 22-23). This will ensure the newly positive midshipmen are able to complete their quarantine period and still take finals on schedule.
- Barracks Moves: The Commandants office and the regimental officers have developed a plan to sequentially move positive midshipmen who have cleared quarantine back to their parent companies and normal barracks, as well as moving newly identified positive midshipmen into quarantine. This plan is underway and will continue throughout the weekend, under the supervision and guidance of midshipmen leaders.
- Academic Calendar: Due to the restricted movement order, we lost four days of required academic assessment. That resulted in a one week shift of our academic calendar. The revised final exam schedule for the week of March 22-25 has just been published. Because some students may be released later than others, we decided that all midshipmen scheduled for Monday and Tuesday finals would take those exams online so as to incur no additional delays in the academic program. All in-person finals originally scheduled on Monday and Tuesday have been moved to later in the week. A fourth exam period, from 1900-2200, was added to the schedule to avoid pushing exams to Saturday, March 26.
- Midshipman Health Care: There have been a number of questions about medical care for midshipmen with the COVID virus. Quarantined midshipmen are in regular contact with the health professionals at Patten Hall, as are those midshipmen identified as PUI. While the health services team is charged with the medical care of the entire regiment, they are doing everything possible for COVID-positive and PUI midshipmen. During times outside of regular business hours, the CDO and the midshipmen leadership check in regularly. Any midshipman experiencing difficulty after hours will be transported to a local hospital under the care of a NY State-qualified EMT. The vast majority of our current COVID cases are asymptomatic, while those individuals with symptoms are experiencing only mild conditions like loss of taste and/or smell, low grade fever, or headache. Legacy positive midshipmen have been placed in charge of ensuring better distribution of meals, and fresh fruit continues to be delivered daily, by the boxful.
- Barracks Cleanliness: We were recently made aware of trash lingering in a company hallway. We addressed this with the appropriate company’s midshipmen leadership and were assured they were aware of the problem. On this particular day, company members ran out of garbage bags, but didn’t realize it until after normal work hours. They opted to leave the trash in place overnight so they could clean it up in a more efficient way the following morning when the garbage bags were re-stocked. We remind all midshipmen that should consumable products like paper towels, trash bags, etc. run low, they should request replacement stock before the supply runs out. In this case midshipmen leaders on the floor made a decision to resolve the situation in the morning.
- Vaccinations: We addressed the availability of COVID vaccine for the Academy community during this week’s Zoom calls. We are making progress on identifying potential sources for vaccine. We continue to urge patience as we explore the options that may be available. There is no need to assist at this point. We hope to have more fidelity on vaccinations in the near future.
Acta Non Verba!
Vice Admiral, USMS