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Coronavirus forces Air Force to cancel PT testing until October — or later

The Air Force has extended its coronavirus-driven suspension of fitness assessment testing until the beginning of October, at the earliest.

In a release Friday, the Air Force said the extension of the PT test suspension — which originally was to resume in June — is necessary to ensure airmen’s safety while the pandemic is ongoing.

“Airmen remain our top priority, and we will ensure their health and safety as we maintain our force readiness posture," Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly said in a memo announcing the change, which takes effect immediately.

Abdominal circumference testing has also been temporarily suspended until October 1, 2021, or until further notice, Kelly said. All airmen will receive a one-year abdominal circumference exemption, and their next scheduled test will be based on their last fitness score.

Annual height and weight measurements, which are normally taken at the abdominal circumference test, are also temporarily suspended until further notice.

As the nation quickly locked down to slow the spread of coronavirus in March, the Air Force announced a six-month suspension of all PT tests through the end of May.

But the goal of resuming PT testing on October 1 is far from certain. Kelly’s memo said the resumption would depend on local health conditions, and whether local or state movement or travel restrictions are lifted and base fitness centers are reopened.

If travel restrictions remain in place and fitness centers are still closed by October, Kelly said commanders can choose to further delay testing until conditions are safer.

Kelly said that once the Air Force feels ready to restart PT testing, it will proceed cautiously, and follow the recommended guidance for safety during the pandemic.

“When testing resumes, the Air Force will take a systematic approach to reintegrating official physical fitness assessments,” Kelly said in the memo. “All policies and procedures should reinforce physical distancing, use of personal protective equipment, airmen health and personal hygiene, and cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting work spaces and common areas.”

And how well airmen they did on their last PT test, as well as when they took it, will determine when they take their next test.

According to a chart accompanying Kelly’s memo, airmen who last tested in March through August 2019 and scored an excellent — meaning they were originally scheduled to test again exactly 12 months later — will now test in the corresponding month in 2021. Those who scored a satisfactory or unsatisfactory in those months would have already had to take their six-month retest before the coronavirus struck.

Anyone who tested unsatisfactorily from September 2019 through early March 2020 must test in November 2020, according to the chart.

Those who last tested in September 2019 and scored an excellent will now retest in September 2021, or two years later. But airmen who received a satisfactory score in September 2019 and were originally supposed to retest six months later are scheduled to take their tests in October 2020.

Airmen who scored an excellent or satisfactory on their last tests in October 2019 through the beginning of March 2020 will take their tests one year after their last test.

However, some PT tests that would have been scheduled for October could get pushed back again to November. Airmen who are overdue for a PT test or are not satisfactory will have a 42-day reconditioning period, beginning Oct. 1, during which they will not be required to test, Kelly said in the memo.

But airman wanting to test during that reconditioning period can request a waiver.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that abdominal circumference testing is suspended until October 2021, not this October.

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