Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy Has More Cadets Test Positive for COVID-19

| Oct. 22, 2020

Following the recommendations of the Champaign - Urbana Public Health District, Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy has re-tested the cadets who had tested negative last week for COVID-19.

All cadets and staff with positive tests have been separated from the cadets and staff that tested negative for the virus. The LCA medical staff is monitoring the medical condition of all positive cadets in isolation, taking vitals and reporting those results to the Champaign - Urbana Public Health District daily and are following any and all recommendations from the health department. As of Oct. 21, all of the cadets are either asymptomatic or showing minor symptoms. In addition, staff from Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy has been in communication with the local hospital in case any of the symptoms of any of the cadets or staff worsen.

“The leadership of Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy is working very closely with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and is following all guidance,” said Awais Vaid, CUPHD Deputy Administrator and Epidemiologist.

The re-testing of these 66 cadets was conducted on Monday (Oct. 19). The results of these tests indicate that another 35 cadets have tested positive for the virus. All those who tested positive are being monitored closely and have been quarantined on the academy’s campus. Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy has been in open communication with the legal guardians of the cadets.  In the first round of testing 30 of Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy cadets tested positive for the virus. An additional seven staff members have tested positive for the virus and they have been quarantined as well. The staff are also either asymptomatic or showing minor symptoms.

Of the cadets from the first round of COVID tests, eight cadets and one staff member have been released to their team from quarantine. Another approximately 20 cadets are expected to be released from quarantine later this week.

The isolation floor is staffed and monitored 24 hours a day, and those staff members are checking temperatures of every cadet an additional three times a day. Daily cleaning and sanitation is being conducted throughout the academy.

Education is continuing on the isolation floor with an instructor and via zoom into classes.  Staff are also assisting with tutoring. The isolation floor has DVD players, televisions, books, art supplies, games and study materials to keep them engaged during the day. Weather permitting, the cadets are getting outside for recreational exercise, socially distance walks around the 13-acre campus in the afternoons and/or early evenings.

This Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy class has been on campus since July and all cadets were screened for COVID-19 upon entering the academy. This class has been conducted in small groups within state guidance with no interactions with outside groups as a precaution against COVID-19. In addition, masks for staff and social distancing have been mandatory throughout the class. The class has been conducted in a “bubble” with the program limiting exposure to the public as well as to their families and guardians. For example, family weekends were replaced with Zoom and phone calls.

This class is scheduled to graduate in November, with about 56 cadets expected to graduate on Nov. 7 and another 40 cadets expected to graduate on Nov. 24. The initial 56 cadets expected to graduate on Nov. 7 were members of the initial class interrupted by the pandemic last winter.   

“The Cadets' spirits are good, and they are looking forward to returning home as graduates.  This unfortunate situation has encouraged us by seeing the resilience, strength and determination of our cadets,” said Col. (retired) Michael Haerr, Director of Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy. “I also want to thank our staff. They have shown complete selflessness, assisted in sanitation of all the team floors, common areas, and classrooms.  They have volunteered to work the isolation floors, and continue to go out of their way to accommodate the changing schedule necessary to educate and graduate this class.”

LCA is a civilian youth opportunities program, part of the National Guard Challenge program. It consists of a 22-week residential program and a 12-month post-residential mentoring program. The program seeks to provide at-risk youth with training to provide them the life skills needed to succeed in life and qualify them for a GED. The Illinois residential phase is conducted at the academy in Rantoul on the former Chanute Air Force Base. Lincoln’s ChalleNGe is administered by the Illinois National Guard/Illinois Department of Military Affairs in accordance with the program agreement entered into between the Governor of Illinois and U.S. Secretary of Defense. The program is funded by a combination of federal and state appropriated funds. More information about LCA is available at its website, http://www.lincolnschallenge.org.