More than a dozen cadets who were ordered to return to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for their upcoming graduation ceremony ― after President Donald Trump announced he would deliver the commencement speech ― have contracted the coronavirus.
Fifteen or 16 of the 1,106 cadets who returned to the academy’s campus north of New York City ahead of their graduation on June 13 have tested positive for the virus, Army spokespeople told multiple news outlets, including Mother Jones and The New York Times, this week.
“This was anticipated. None were symptomatic, and no cadet has contracted through person-to-person contact while under the Army’s care,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Army told CNN. “Those who test positive are isolated and receive appropriate care and attention while we continue an orderly reintegration of our cadets.”
However, anonymous Capitol Hill sources told USA Today that 14 of those cadets tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, suggesting they were infected and have likely recovered.
The academy’s class of 2020 had initially been due to graduate May 23.
All cadets were ordered back to their homes across the country in March, however, as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 106,000 people nationwide.
The graduating cadets began returning at staggered intervals after Trump announced his plan to speak at the upcoming ceremony.
Critics questioned whether the graduation should be held at all, given the academy’s proximity to New York, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a veteran of the Iraq War, said in a statement that “Trump’s reckless decision” put “our future military leaders at increased risk — all to stroke his own ego.”
Academy officials have indicated that this year’s ceremony “will look different from recent graduation ceremonies because of current social health force protection measures.”
Trump, who infamously used his first commencement speech as president at the evangelical Liberty University to brag about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, has already suggested he won’t be a fan of “the look.”
“Do I like the look? No, I don’t,” the president said in April. “Eventually, next year, they’ll have a commencement which will be like it’s been, nice and tight.”
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