Sea Term Announcement
April 21, 2021
To the Regiment of Cadets and the Massachusetts Maritime Community,
I write today to express my appreciation for your tenacity during these difficult times and to share the latest information regarding the upcoming sea term and commencement. The Academy medical team is to be congratulated for their work over the past 14 months. Thanks to their planning and execution, we have met or likely stand to meet our four overarching objectives:
- to keep our cadets, faculty, staff and our families safe
- to eliminate community spread
- to get our seniors across the finish line
- to limit the academic disruption to the underclass.
Please know that I am steadfast in my commitment to these objectives until this dreadful pandemic moves off our stern. To our amazing regiment, I say thank you for following our strict COVID protocols. This semester has tested our will and our spirit and you have answered that challenge without wavering. We stand here today just a few short weeks from completing our semester and each day we keep COVID from our campus gets us closer to finishing what we started in February. Please stay vigilant and stay supportive - especially of each other.
As for sea term and commencement, here is the latest and please note: THIS IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. And if we are compelled to change, I ask for your understanding as we seek to do our best in the face of an ever-changing theater of operations.
We will seek to lighten the occupancy of the dormitory by giving all non-sea term cadets the option to move out of the Academy dormitory beginning on 7 May and to complete classes and finals as a commuting student (i.e.if you have an in-person class, you will continue in person but do so as a commuter, in-person classes will not convert to online) . Please note that this is optional. By doing so, we hope to open up many dorm rooms to use as singles during the sea term start up.
We plan to encourage sea term cadets to optionally remain on campus beginning on 14 May. Please note that this is optional. This will afford each cadet with the best chance of remaining negative throughout the entire alongside period and, thus, for the duration of sea term. Please note that we recognize that our sea term cadets are vaccinated but we further recognize that vaccination has limits in efficacy (i.e. the J&J vaccine is around just 70% at preventing symptomatic illness ) and therefore vaccinated persons
can still both develop and transmit COVID.
We plan to require all sea term cadets to report to campus on Sunday 16 May and then remain on campus until we set sail. We plan to test all cadets on Day 1 and, further, we seek to quarantine in the dorms until a negative test result is received (likely early the next morning). We will work through any final exam conflicts during this time. Please note that this is NOT optional. Once a negative test is received, cadets will be allowed to circulate about campus as they complete any outstanding final exams (much like the February Health & Wellness Pause).
This report date/COVID test date gives us adequate time to deal with any positives before we move from the dorms to the ship and thus give us the best chance of bringing zero cases aboard the vessel. This is especially important in the densely populated cadet living quarters. It also gives any cadet who tests positive on 16 May the opportunity to recover prior to the departure of the vessel and, therefore, the ability to still participate in sea term. It will also likely give us the opportunity to have a mask-free sea term, once we get underway.
It is very important to note that a positive test after the initial return to campus test will mean insufficient time for recovery and, thus, no participation on sea term. We will depart on 29 May and return on 23 June. A six week sea term - of which 3.5 weeks will be at sea. For each individual cadet, in the absence of a positive test, it means one single day of quarantine.
It is important to note that there has been much discussion around ports of call. I have decided to forgo ports of call due to the potential COVID exposure in port. The rationale for this is threefold. First, is our commitment to our overarching objectives (safety, spread, graduation and academic progress). Secondly, is the fact that the CDC has yet to approve cruise ship operations (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s0402-conditional-sail-orders.html). I do not expect this position to change but I will be closely monitoring the CDC guidance as we prepare for sea term. Thirdly, we received the early access to vaccinations in order to obtain the necessary days at sea. That request precluded us from adding ports of call given the State's position on travel and the CDC's position on cruise ships.
The aforementioned plan, in the opinion of both our medical team and the senior leadership team, gives our cadets the best chance to complete sea term in a COVID-free manner, the optimal setting for training (on a mask-free ship) and, ultimately, the best chance to graduate on time.
Commencement is planned to be an in-person event to be held on 26 June 2021. Graduates will be allowed a limited number of guests. More information will be promulgated in mid-May.
My kindest regards,
RADM Francis McDonald