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People gather and dance on Balboni Field during the Humphreys Fall Festival at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Oct. 15, 2022.

People gather and dance on Balboni Field during the Humphreys Fall Festival at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Oct. 15, 2022. (Courtney Davis/U.S. Army)

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CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea on Tuesday reported its lowest weekly count of new COVID-19 cases so far this year, more than two years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Twenty-eight people within USFK contracted the virus Oct. 11-17, according to the command’s weekly update. It reported 38 new cases from Oct. 4-10.

USFK, which has about 28,500 troops under its command and thousands more Defense Department civilian employees, contractors and family members, reported 1,599 cases from Jan. 4-10, its highest weekly count this year.

U.S. military commands rescinded nearly all social-distancing measures in June.

As of Sept. 3, proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for South Korea is no longer required for international travelers, according to the website for the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Bill Burleson, speaking Oct. 19 at a museum unveiling at Camp Humphreys, said it was “nice to see so many faces … without having to wear masks and to be able to meet together, now that we’ve by and large put the coronavirus behind us.”

The updated COVID-19 bivalent booster and this season’s flu vaccine are available for eligible recipients at immunization clinics in most U.S. military bases in South Korea. For example, boosters are available on a walk-in basis on Humphreys at the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital, and flu shots are available at the Humphreys Reception Center.

New cases of the coronavirus respiratory disease in South Korea also continue to fall. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 43,759 new cases Monday, according to its Tuesday update. KDCA on March 17 reported 621,328, its highest one-day caseload this year.

Over 25.3 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Korea since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

South Korea’s government lifted its outdoor face mask mandate in September and business curfews in April. Masks are still mandatory indoors, however.

Speaking to news reporters during a Monday briefing, COVID-19 Special Task Office chief Jung Ki-suck said “innocent victims” will be affected if the government lifted its indoor mask mandate preemptively.

“COVID-19 infections are likely to increase from the moment we go unmasked,” Jung said. “We could decide to lift indoor mask mandates if none of our citizens die, there’s no problem in intensive care units and everyone is treated without big trouble; but it is not such a situation.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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