Navy commander near Tokyo notes ‘positive outlook’ as coronavirus case numbers decline
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 5, 2021
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TOKYO – The largest U.S. naval base in Japan reported two new cases of the coronavirus Friday, a day after its commander lifted some restrictions for sailors at the home of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
Yokosuka Naval Base, 35 miles south of Tokyo, had two individuals test positive during medical screenings, according to a Facebook post. The naval hospital there is monitoring five patients.
Yokosuka’s case numbers have declined significantly since December, when the base reported 144 patients, and January, when it reported 293. Among U.S. bases in Japan, only the Marine Corps camps on Okinawa recorded higher coronavirus numbers over the past year than Yokosuka, the homeport of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
Base commander Capt. Rich Jarrett, in a video address posted Thursday on Facebook, challenged his command to make that his last video update on COVID-19 by adhering in the home stretch to public health measures and getting vaccinated. COVID-19 is the coronavirus respiratory disease.
“Today, we begin our transition back to some more normal activities as the situation among our active-duty service members, family members and civilian employees significantly improved,” he said. “Overall, the outlook is more positive than ever.”
Jarrett broadened the off-duty travel area but left Tokyo and Kawasaki cities off-limits. He lifted the ban on off-duty use of mass transit, with the admonition to avoid riding trains and buses during rush hours.
Jarrett let stand an 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, in keeping with the extension of emergency measures in Kanagawa prefecture until March 21. The state of emergency began Jan. 7 in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures to stem a rise in infections.
Details of health protection measures are posted on the base Facebook page.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Friday reported another 301 people infected with the coronavirus, an increase of 22 patients over the previous day. The stubborn virus continues to infect an average of 270 people every day, according to metro government data.
In South Korea, the Army’s Camp Casey returned to its pandemic routine after three days of restrictions, according to a Facebook post Friday. Casey, less than 20 miles from the Demilitarized Zone, is home to the 210th Field Artillery Brigade.
Col. Ellis Baker, commander of Casey and Yongsan Garrison, on Wednesday ordered base activities curtailed and imposed a ban on travel to neighboring Dongducheon city after a spike in new cases there.
New infections in Gyeonggi province, where Dongducheon and Casey are located, bumped up to 218 on Tuesday but fell to 168 by Thursday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Seoul reported 129 new infections Thursday, while South Korea reported 381.
Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.