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Nine new coronavirus cases for US military bases in Japan and South Korea

People wear masks while visiting the Yokohamabashi shopping district in Yokohama, Japan, Nov. 20, 2020.

AKIFUMI ISHIKAWA/STARS AND STRIPES

By JOSEPH DITZLER AND MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2020

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TOKYO – The U.S. military on Tuesday reported nine new coronavirus infections at a Navy installation in Japan and an Army post in South Korea.

Eight of those patients tested positive since Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base, home of the 7th Fleet south of Tokyo.

Six of those patients are new arrivals to the country who tested positive while in quarantine, according to a base news release.

A seventh tested positive after showing symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus; the eighth tested positive after having contact with another infected individual, according to the base.

Contact tracers found some recent infections were picked up in the nearby city of Yokohama, according to a base Facebook post Tuesday. Yokohama is considered a red zone, or high-risk area, according to an order by base commander Capt. Rich Jarrett. The city is not off-limits, but U.S. military personnel are under tighter restrictions there than in less riskier zones.

Yokosuka has reported 36 coronavirus cases so far this month and 131 since June.

At Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, the top enlisted leader for U.S. Forces Japan on Monday said the spike in infections at two bases in Japan may have sprung from a “couple different baby showers,” or gender-reveal parties.

Yokota has reported 43 new cases since Nov. 13 and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in western Japan has reported 23 this month, in both instances three times their totals from June to October.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rick Winegardner Jr., speaking on American Forces Network Radio, urged service members and their families to exercise caution over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Without specifying either installation, Winegardner said the viral clusters emanated from “just a couple families getting together,” which “sounds an awful lot like what’s going to happen this week.”

U.S. Forces Korea reported one new case, a soldier at Camp Humphreys. That patient, unlike most previous cases, acquired the virus locally, according to a command news release.

Over the past several days, the soldier visited several locations at Camp Humphreys, the Army’s main installation south of Seoul, including a restaurant and a gym.

Anyone who visited the Texas Roadhouse from 7-9 p.m. Sunday or the Zoeckler Fitness Center from 5:20-6:10 p.m. Monday should call the COVID hotline at 0503-337-2556, base commander Col. Michael Tremblay said during a Facebook Live presentation Tuesday.

Cleaning crews and contact tracers were dispatched, according to USFK.

“The Soldier did the right thing by adhering to our core tenets by immediately seeking medical treatment when he was feeling sick,” said USFK commander Gen. Robert Abrams, according to the release.

The soldier is quarantined at a Humphreys’ barracks for coronavirus patients.

Of 369 coronavirus infections reported in South Korea among U.S. service members, civilian employees and family members, only 28 acquired the virus locally. The majority, more than 225, tested positive in isolation after arriving from the United States.

ditzler.joseph@stripes.com
Twitter: @JosephDitzler

keeler.matthew@stripes.com
Twitter: @MattKeeler1231