Navy Cancels More Fitness Tests as US Sees Troubling Rise in COVID-19 Cases

Sailors run their 1.5 mile run during a physical readiness test.
Lt. Kacee Jossis, command fitness leader aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), times Sailors running their 1.5 mile run during a physical readiness test. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Paolo Bayas)

Sailors due to take their physical fitness assessment this fall will see the requirement waived as novel coronavirus cases continue to spike across much of the country.

The Navy has canceled its fall physical fitness assessment cycle, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell announced in a video Tuesday. The move follows service leaders' decision to waive the requirement in the spring when the pandemic started.

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"We've done a great job minimizing the outbreak, but we can't back off now," Nowell said.

The waiver will apply to both the physical readiness test and body composition assessment, which measures body fat percentage.

Everyone will be marked as excused for the fall cycle, Nowell said. But those needing to regain retention or advancement eligibility will be allowed to perform a mock PFA, he added, with approval from installation commanders.

Mock PFAs, which weren't allowed during the spring cycle, must meet a host of guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those rules, which require temperature checks, disinfection measures and limits on the number of people involved in the assessment, are detailed in a new Navy administrative message.

The Navy has struggled with some of the military's highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, due in part to virus outbreaks on multiple deployed ships. Now, several states, including some with a big Navy presence such as California and Florida, have seen huge increases in cases over the last two weeks.

"COVID-19 is still a problem," Nowell said.

Physical fitness assessments will pick back up next year, he added, but the decision to cancel them during the pandemic shouldn't be seen as an excuse to quit exercising.

"Do some planks at home, go jogging, eat healthy," he said. "... Whatever you need to do to do your best to stay in shape and within our physical fitness standards is what we expect you to do."

The Navy isn't the only service to cancel or postpone fitness tests during the global pandemic. As some base gyms closed as coronavirus cases picked up, leaders looked for ways to minimize activities that required close contact and shared equipment.

The Marine Corps in April suspended its physical fitness test for the rest of 2020. In May, the Air Force canceled its fitness test until at least October. The Army is also working to modify its new combat fitness test by the fall.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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