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Hawaii military bases boost health protection levels as coronavirus cases surge

Soldiers undergo coronavirus disinfection training at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, May 8, 2020.

MICHAEL BRADLE/U.S. ARMY

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 7, 2020

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FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Army and Marine Corps bases on Hawaii ramped up their health protection condition a notch Thursday in the wake of a growing number of coronavirus infections in the state.

The Army raised the level to condition Charlie — second in intensity only to Delta — meaning that the area is experiencing sustained community transmission of the coronavirus.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which shut down an on-post Subway shop last week after an employee tested positive for the virus, also jumped to condition Charlie that day.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam raised its level from Bravo to Charlie last Saturday.

According to Defense Department guidelines, Bravo indicates a moderate risk of coronavirus infection, and Charlie represents a substantial risk.

Military installations in the state had been at condition Charlie during the initial weeks of the pandemic in the spring but lowered it to Bravo in early summer as daily new cases remained at single digits.

The state had a record high of 173 new infections Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. The daily tally has been steadily rising since mid-July. The health department does not publish a tally of military-related cases.

As of Thursday, the state has had 2,914 infections and 29 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The military services have in general followed orders issued by Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Kirk Caldwell, mayor of the city and county of Honolulu on Oahu, where almost all the military is based.

Alarmed by recent community spread, Caldwell has rolled back the reopening of the county that had begun slowly in June. On Monday, he banned indoor and outdoor social gatherings of more than 10 people, though he excluded houses of worship. Last week, the city closed all bars for three weeks and prohibited sale of alcohol in restaurants after 10 p.m.

The commander of Army Garrison Hawaii, Col. Dan Misigoy, on Wednesday evening announced the return to health condition Charlie during a weekly coronavirus update livestreamed on Facebook.

With the elevated condition comes the reinstatement of a temporary visitor restriction policy, which means visitors will not be allowed onto installations without an exception to policy, such as for providing child care or delivering food. Cardio workout areas in all gyms will be shuttered.

Aligning with the updated county order, the Army’s on-post restaurants, bowling centers and snack bars will stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m.

A state order in place since the beginning of the pandemic requires anyone arriving from outside the state to quarantine for 14 days.

In July, Ige was set to ease that restriction by allowing visitors who tested negative prior to arrival to skip the quarantine. That scheme plan was postponed as cases began to rise.

The starting date for the state’s schools was also postponed for two weeks until Aug. 17 after pushback from parents and teachers who questioned safety preparations by the Hawaii Department of Education.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @WyattWOlson