A floor decal reminds food court patrons to practice social distancing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, May 20, 2020.

A floor decal reminds food court patrons to practice social distancing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, May 20, 2020. (Matt Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.

TOKYO — A food-service worker at Kadena Air Base has tested positive for the coronavirus, the third case this month involving a base employee, the installation announced Wednesday.

Okinawa prefecture confirmed the report, but a public health official declined to provide further information.

The employee worked at the Kazoku Place restaurant inside Rocker Enlisted Club and contracted the virus from a family member who also tested positive, according to a Facebook post by Kadena.

Four close contacts of the employee were also quarantined, and the Rocker was closed for deep cleaning, the post said. The Rocker and Kazoku Place restaurant will reopen at 6 a.m. Thursday.

The employee complied with all standard prevention measures “to include proper handwashing and mask wear while at work,” according to Kadena. The base referred to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that no evidence exists to show people can get the virus by eating or handling food.

“An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting from 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19,” the Kadena post said. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The infected employee “did not work the two days prior to symptom onset,” according to Kadena.

Two other base employees, both Japanese civilians, tested positive on Oct. 10 and 13. The first, a man in his 50s from Okinawa city, works at the base arts and crafts shop; the second, a man in his 40s from Naha city, works at the base Pizza Hut. Neither had contact with customers, the base said in earlier statements.

Kadena announced four other cases on Monday, all members of the same family that arrived Oct. 3. They tested positive over the weekend in a test required by U.S. Forces Japan prior to exiting quarantine. The four had been isolated since their arrival in Japan, the base reported.

Okinawa prefecture reported one death and 37 new cases Wednesday, which brought the pandemic total to 3,013 cases, according to the public health official.

In southern Japan, Sasebo Naval Base on Wednesday announced it cleared three people of the virus, leaving the base with one active case.

The base commander, Capt. David Adams, on Oct. 7 re-imposed tight travel restrictions as four, and ultimately five, new cases appeared at Sasebo. He lifted those restrictions four days later, in time for his command to take advantage of the Columbus Day holiday.

USFJ now has about 20 active coronavirus cases at any one time, Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Winegardner Jr. said during a Facebook Live question-and-answer session with American Forces Network on Wednesday.

“We’re doing really, really well,” he said from Yokota Air Base, USFJ headquarters in western Tokyo.

In response to questions, Winegardner said local conditions and mission requirements typically dictate the restrictions imposed by base commanders. For example, Navy personnel work in environments like ships and submarines where the virus may spread quickly, so they may be saddled with more stringent rules than Air Force maintainers working on open flight lines, he said.

“We have learned a lot of lessons along the way,” Winegardner said. “Some of them we learned the hard way. Some of them have come off the backs of the force out here because we just didn’t know what right looked like.” Twitter: @JosephDitzler Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

author picture
Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now