Air Force Academy Relaxes Social Distancing Rules After Second Cadet Suicide Death

Air Force Academy Relaxes Social Distancing Rules After Second Cadet Suicide Death
Cadets stand near their seats during the 2019 graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 30, 2019. (Chet Strange/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is easing social distancing restrictions on its Colorado Springs campus after two graduating cadets died by suicide in less than a week.

Cadets will be allowed to go off-campus for drive-thru food, gather in groups while following Colorado's guidelines, and have a casual Friday during which they can wear civilian clothing, according to a campus-wide email obtained by Colorado Springs Gazette.

Also removed is the punishment of marching practice for cadets who fail to follow social-distancing guidelines.

"No one is being punished for social distancing violations. Be smart!" Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the Academy's superintendent, said in an email.

The moves come after the suicides of two senior cadets on Mar. 26 and 28, amid the Academy's increasingly strict measures to prevent the spread of pandemic CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus on campus. All freshmen, sophomores, and juniors were sent home earlier this month. The remaining 1,000 seniors, who are spread through the freed-up dorm rooms and not allowed to leave the campus, continue to live on take-out food from the dining hall and take classes online.
"These tragedies have caused incredible shock and pain throughout our USAFA family," Lt. Gen. Silveria said in a statement following the deaths, reported Air Force Times. "Right now, we are all focused on taking care of the cadet's families and each other—our cadets, our faculty, our staff—as we grieve this loss."
The USAFA's leaders, while relaxing rules to promote good mental health across the campus, struggle to address the evolving threat of the CCP virus. The Academy declared a public health emergency on Mar. 23, shortly after a civilian employee of an airbase wing for the Academy tested positive for the CCP virus. The latest confirmed CCP virus case on the USAFA campus is a senior cadet, who was taking classes online and living in a single-occupancy dorm room, according to a press release.
"Suffering will always be a part of the battle between good and evil," a senior cadet wrote over the weekend in a blog post. "It is on us, as role models, protectors, and leaders of our community, to understand how we can transform this negativity into a positive light."

"At the end of the day, we don't have a choice. We signed up for this, and we must stick it out. We have to endure these varying degrees of suffering because of our vocation to serve and protect our family at any cost."