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San Diego Navy bases suspend non-essential and recreational operations as coronavirus spreads

By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: March 19, 2020

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SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — Naval bases across the southwestern United States, including those in San Diego, are suspending non-essential and recreational operations to protect sailors, civilians and their families as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.

In a statement Wednesday from Navy Region Southwest, headquartered in San Diego, the Navy announced sweeping closures on all installations in the region, which includes bases in California and Nevada.

Base fitness centers, gyms, bowling alleys and movie theaters are closed, and base chapels have suspended all religious services.

Restaurants will offer to-go services only while galleys and mess halls remain open, though without salad bars and enhanced social distancing efforts, the statement says.

Base childcare centers, as well as home-based daycare licensed through the Navy, remain open, though without part-time daycare.

Brian O'Rourke, a Navy Region Southwest spokesman, said the decision to restrict part-time care is to minimize children coming in and out of facilities throughout the day.

Base commissaries are conducting I.D. checks at entrances and are not allowing visitors inside to reduce the number of people in the stores, according to the Navy's statement.

The bases have started asking eligible personnel to work remotely; however, a majority of the active-duty work force is still coming onto installations to work. In its statement, the Navy reminds its personnel to follow hygiene guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Personnel physically present for work should actively participate in social distancing and regular cleaning of spaces and following CDC's recommended actions to prevent the spread of the virus," the statement says.

A cluster of sailors at a Naval Base San Diego schoolhouse — three of them — have tested positive for COVID-19, as have three additional sailors stationed on ships at the base.

Sailors who have tested positive are in home isolation with their movement restricted, according to the Navy.

Local Marine Corps bases at Miramar and Camp Pendleton haven't moved to close their recreational facilities and, as of Wednesday, gyms are open.

In a video posted to its Facebook page, Camp Pendleton said its gyms are closing twice daily so staff can sanitize equipment.

Three Marines in San Diego County — all at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar — have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

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