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With Camp Casey infection, coronavirus spreads to nearly every major U.S. base in South Korea

Vehicles line up to enter Camp Casey, South Korea, Feb. 26, 2020.

AMBER SMITH/U.S. ARMY

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 9, 2020

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SEOUL, South Korea — The wife of a civilian employee at Camp Casey tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday, U.S. Forces Korea said, the first infection linked to the Army post near the border with North Korea.

The confirmation raised to 21 the total number of cases affiliated with USFK as the virus spread to nearly every major American base on the divided peninsula.

The woman last visited Camp Casey on March 25 and has been in self-quarantine at her off-post residence since April 2, USFK said in a press release. “The USFK employee has joined his spouse in self-quarantine … due to his spouse testing positive,” it said without giving their nationalities.

Yongsan Army Garrison, which oversees Camp Casey, said Thursday that the employee had tested negative and remained in quarantine. All facilities on base had been cleaned and were being reopened, it added.

The military has sharply curtailed access to its installations and banned troops from nonessential movement and social activities off-post in a bid to contain the virus, which first appeared in China late last year.

Only two soldiers have tested positive since USFK reported its first case on Feb. 24. However, the overall number of cases has risen over the past two weeks as several American contractors and other civilians were infected at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base, prompting officials to further tighten restrictions on those installations.

Before that, most coronavirus infections were at U.S. Army Garrison Daegu in the eponymous southeastern city and surrounding areas at the heart of South Korea’s outbreak. No cases have been reported on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, which is in the process of closing as USFK consolidates forces in the south.

Wednesday’s confirmation was the first infection  in someone affiliated with Camp Casey, home to the 210th Field Artillery Brigade and less than 20 miles from the heavily fortified buffer zone that divides the peninsula.

USFK insisted it could fight on both fronts despite the limitations imposed on training and other activities.

"While USFK had a confirmed [coronavirus] case today, we remain at two active duty service members confirmed, so we're maintaining a high level of readiness,” spokesman Col. Lee Peters said Wednesday in an email. “We continue to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect [South Korea] against any threat or adversary while maintaining prudent preventive measures to protect the force."

South Korea, meanwhile, reported 39 new cases on Thursday for a total of 10,423 amid cautious optimism that its aggressive testing and tracking efforts may be working. The number has hovered around 50 for three consecutive days, down from a high of 909 on Feb. 29, although 204 people have died from the respiratory disease.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

 

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