Home World Trump faces scrutiny over West Point address plans

Trump faces scrutiny over West Point address plans

Air Force Academy cadets stand up to take an oath during their graduation ceremony on April 18, 2020

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Air Force Academy cadets had to keep their distance in this year’s graduation ceremony

US President Donald Trump’s plans to deliver a graduation speech at the West Point military academy in New York are being questioned.

Mr Trump is due to speak on 13 June at the academy, located about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City.

New York state is the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak.

The academy has said “the size and scope of the graduation ceremony will be determined by safety considerations” for all attendees.

Cadets have been attending classes virtually since they left campus for spring break on 6 March.

The president announced on 17 April he would be giving the West Point commencement address this year.

According to the New York Times, that came as a surprise to West Point event organisers, who had yet to finalise graduation ceremony plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a weekend editorial, the New York Daily News cautioned “there’s no reason to believe that New York State, nor the academy itself, is prepared to host a graduation ceremony amidst a pandemic”.

In a statement, the academy said approximately 1,000 cadets would have to return to campus to pack their dorm rooms, graduate and “eventually move to Army Officer Basic Training”.

Cadets would be coming back to campus starting in late May and would be subject to a “detailed Covid screening, testing, quarantine, and integration plan”, it added.

The statement noted that this “graduation ceremony will look different from recent graduation ceremonies because of current social health force protection measures” and this would be likely to limit family participation.

Recently, the US Naval Academy in Maryland called off its own commencement and instead held a virtual graduation.

However, the Air Force Academy in Colorado allowed seniors to graduate last week, but required them to maintain strict social distancing. Vice-President Mike Pence spoke at that event.

The president has previously spoken at Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force academy graduations.

As of Sunday morning, there are 941,628 confirmed cases of the virus in the US and there have been 54,024 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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