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West Point graduates were forced to come back for Trump’s speech, and 16 caught coronavirus

Published Jun 3rd, 2020 4:43PM EDT
Coronavirus US
Image: Chris Kleponis/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
  • The list of coronavirus cases just got a little bit longer unnecessarily, based on news regarding West Point graduating cadets who have tested positive for the virus.
  • West Point, which is north of the coronavirus hotspot of New York City, sent students home earlier this year when the viral outbreak began.
  • However, they’ve been coming back in waves ahead of President Trump’s scheduled speech at their graduation ceremony this month — and several cadets have subsequently caught the coronavirus. Additionally, a few dozen members of the school’s faculty and staff have tested positive for the virus, too.

The coronavirus’ US toll has gotten a little worse for at least one reason that will strike most people as unnecessary, according to a new USA Today report which found that at least 16 West Point graduating cadets have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

It’s the reason why they tested positive that will seem so unnecessary. West Point — which is just north of New York City, the major coronavirus hotspot in the US — had originally closed its campus, sent everyone home, and postponed its graduation ceremony as a response to the COVID-19 virus. But then President Trump at the end of April announced he would speak at this year’s graduation. You can probably see where this is going.

The ceremony is set for next week. Because of the president’s speech, the school hastily worked up a plan to bring students back safely, staggering their return in waves to adhere to social distancing. While on campus, students also reportedly must wear masks and submit to daily temperature checks.

Nevertheless, at least 16 students have now tested positive for the coronavirus upon their return, according to the school. Not only that, but 71 members of the school’s faculty and staff have tested positive for the virus since mid-March.

US Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, blasted Trump’s appearance as a publicity stunt. “Trump’s reckless decision to gather 1,000 Cadets at West Point for a speech puts our future military leaders at increased risk — all to stroke his own ego,” she said in April. “Our troops need stable, consistent leadership during volatile times like these, not a commander-in-chief who values his own photo ops and TV ratings over their health and safety.”

For comparison, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, canceled its in-person graduation ceremony this year. While the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, kept seniors on campus until their graduation, they sat six feet apart and marched eight feet apart.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus numbers in the US continue to gradually worsen. According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than 1.8 million infections have been identified to-date in the US, while almost 107,000 reported deaths in the US from the coronavirus have been confirmed as of the time of this writing.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.