People visiting an observation point check out housing towers and other buildings at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, March 19, 2021.

People visiting an observation point check out housing towers and other buildings at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, March 19, 2021. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

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TOKYO — The U.S. military in Japan and South Korea reported 14 new coronavirus patients as of 6 p.m. Thursday, some dating back nearly three weeks.

The winter coronavirus surge has tapered to a stubborn daily baseline of hundreds of fresh cases each day in both countries.

In Japan, however, the infection rate is just 0.02% for the approximately 107,000 U.S. troops, civilian employees, contractors and family members, the senior enlisted adviser for U.S. Forces Japan said Thursday on American Forces Network Radio.

U.S. installations do not uniformly publicize the number of active patients, but USFJ reported 35 on March 18. Public health measures like wearing masks and washing hands, along with distribution of vaccines, appear to help stem the virus’ spread.

“We’re not out of the woods, yet,” Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Winegardner said Thursday. “We’re close; we’re close. But we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Two U.S. bases in Japan reported five new coronavirus patients Wednesday evening and Thursday. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Thursday said one person tested positive and went immediately into quarantine after recently arriving in Japan.

Kadena Air Base on Okinawa had four people contract the coronavirus, according to a base Facebook post Wednesday. One individual fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolated before testing positive. The second person tested positive after contact with a previously infected individual, and the third patient tested positive after a co-worker contracted the virus. The fourth person tested positive upon arriving in Japan.

In Tokyo, the number of new cases each day creeps higher than the same day a week earlier, according to metro government data. The city reported 394 new patients Thursday, higher by 71 people than March 18. Metro data show the seven-day moving average during the same period rose from 298.9 to 309.7.

Seven new cases in KoreaSouth Korea reported 430 new infections Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. New, one-day case numbers there have ranged from 469 on March 17 to 346 on Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization.

Seoul reported 125 new cases Wednesday, according to the agency. Gyeonggi province, the home of Camp Humphreys and Osan Air base, had 147.

U.S. Forces Korea reported Thursday that seven service members have tested positive after arriving on the peninsula since March 8. Three arrived from the U.S. at Osan on the Patriot Express, a government-chartered air service, on March 8 and Monday. Four arrived on commercial flights at Incheon International Airport on March 11 and Monday.

Four tested positive before entering the mandatory two-week quarantine, and three came up positive on the test required to exit quarantine. All were subsequently isolated at Osan or Camp Humphreys.

Late Wednesday, Camp Hovey, a small Army installation just south of the Demilitarized Zone, had one person test positive Tuesday after becoming ill with COVID-19 symptoms, according to a USFK news release. On Thursday, the camp reported a second person had contracted the virus from someone recently infected. Both patients are quarantined at Humphreys.

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report. Twitter: @JosephDitzler

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Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.

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