The US Marine Corps said Monday that it is "temporarily suspending the shipping of new recruits" to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, where some 50% of enlisted Marines receive their basic training, due to novel coronavirus concerns.
The move comes as the number of positive cases at the military installation has reached 38, a defense official told CNN. Those cases include new recruits, trainers, staff and dependents.
"Amid the national emergency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and out of an abundance of caution, the Marine Corps is taking steps to protect its recruits, recruit training personnel, their families and the communities where they live and serve by temporarily suspending the shipping of new recruits to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina," the Marines said in a statement.
"Recruit training for individuals already at the Depot will continue as planned, with continued emphasis on personal and environmental cleanliness and social distancing," the statement added.
The Pentagon is refusing to publicly confirm the cases at Parris Island because Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered there be no disclosure of how individual units, bases, or combatant commands are being affected by the virus. However, the Department of Defense discloses the overall number of cases across the department on a daily basis.
The temporary suspension at Parris Island also marks a pause to basic training for all female enlisted Marines.
Enlisted entry level training also takes place at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. No announcement about training there has been made at this time.
"The preservation of our Marines, recruits and their families is the highest priority for Marine Corps Recruiting during this national emergency," said Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in the statement Monday.
As the outbreak has surged across the US, the Pentagon is increasingly preparing for the possibility of wider outbreaks across the force than originally anticipated.
CNN reported earlier this month that US Army is suspending "non-mission essential functions," including some non-critical training of units in the field and physical fitness training involving large numbers of troops, according to an internal Army directive that was obtained by CNN.
"Mitigation measures taken by the Army to blunt the spread of COVID-19 have proven insufficient," the internal order said. The coronavirus "continues to spread geographically as the number of infected persons continues to rise," it added, saying "additional measures and actions are required to protect the force from further spread of COVID-19."