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US Forces Korea extends ‘shelter in place’ order, reports 31 new coronavirus cases

Tech. Sgt. Alexisa Humphre of the 8th Medical Group prepares to inject a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Dec. 29, 2020.

JORDAN GARNER/U.S. AIR FORCE

By SETH ROBSON AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 19, 2021

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Thirty-one people affiliated with U.S. Forces Korea tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving on the peninsula between Dec. 29 and Jan. 18, the command said in a statement Tuesday.

The new cases were announced just hours before a “shelter in place” order for Camp Humphreys – headquarters for USFK, Eighth Army and the 2nd Infantry Division – and Yongsan Garrison, 55 miles to the north in Seoul, was extended through Sunday.

Humphreys commander Col. Mike Tremblay said in a video message Friday that the order, which took effect Saturday morning and was due to lapse just before midnight Tuesday, stemmed from a “very complex” case of contact tracing related to a recent cluster outbreak.

USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters told Stars and Stripes by telephone Tuesday that it involved a person who split work between Yongsan and Humphreys.

Humphreys, “with exception of select units and individuals, will resume limited operations, functions and services” at midnight Wednesday, according to message posted late Tuesday afternoon on USFK’s Facebook page.

The peninsula will remain at health protection condition Charlie, which signifies a substantial risk of the virus spreading, the message said. The command will reassess that status on Feb. 2.

South Korea announced 386 new coronavirus cases Tuesday morning that included 35 from abroad. The country has recorded 73,115 infections during the pandemic and 1,283 deaths.

Sixteen of the U.S. military’s 31 new cases were people who arrived at Osan Air Base on government-chartered flights from the United States between Dec. 29 and Jan. 18. The other 15 arrived on commercial flights at Incheon International Airport between Dec. 29 and Jan. 13, according to the USFK statement.

Eight of those individuals tested positive before entering quarantine and 23 were positive on a test required to exit quarantine, the statement said.

All were transferred to an isolation facility designated for confirmed coronavirus cases at Humphreys, Osan and Kunsan Air Base. None of the new arrivals have interacted with anyone residing within USFK installations or the local community, the statement said.

USFK reported Sunday that three more people in the U.S. military community had become infected with the coronavirus.

Two Department of Defense civilians working at Yongsan tested positive on Saturday and Sunday following direct contact with someone who recently also tested positive, the command sad in a statement.

The spouse of a DOD employee who tested positive on Jan. 13 and has access to Yongsan tested positive Sunday, according to the statement.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and USFK health workers are conducting contact tracing to determine whether anyone else may have been exposed to the individual, and to identify and ensure all known on-post and off-post facilities visited are thoroughly cleaned, the statement said.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

chang.kyong@stripes.com