An airman with the 18th Medical Group removes his personal protective equipment after conducting coronavirus testing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, March 20, 2020.

An airman with the 18th Medical Group removes his personal protective equipment after conducting coronavirus testing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, March 20, 2020. (Rhett Isbell/U.S. Air Force)

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Kadena Air Base on Okinawa reported another new case of the coronavirus late Tuesday, an employee at the base Pizza Hut restaurant.

“This individual worked at the Pizza Hut on base but did not have a customer-service role,” Kadena announced on its Facebook page at 8:33 pm.

Okinawa prefecture earlier Tuesday identified the patient as man in his 40s from Naha city. He was one of two Kadena employees who tested positive for the virus, the base announced in two separate statements Tuesday. The other works at the arts and crafts shop, identified by the prefecture as a man in his 50s from Okinawa city.

The base in the second post referred to the Facebook page for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said no evidence suggests the coronavirus is spread by food.

“It may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, such as a food package or dining ware that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC guidance says, using the name of the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. “However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

After contact tracing, an unspecified number of individuals were quarantined as result of exposure to both patients, according to the base’s announcements.

The second Facebook post attracted comments Tuesday evening that challenged the assertion that the Pizza Hut employee did not interact with customers.

One of those commenters claimed to have firsthand knowledge that the worker did have customer contact and accused the base of “blatantly lying to everyone.” The commenter did not respond to a request Wednesday via Facebook Messenger to speak with Stars and Stripes.

The Kadena Public Affairs Office responded to the comment by stating that the medical team “has been able to connect with you to get any additional information you may have regarding this case.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the same commenter alleged on the same Facebook thread that the infected employee sometimes delivers pizzas.

The base responded directly to her: “The individual was not delivering pizzas on the day of symptom onset or during the 48 hours prior, which is the period of time our public health professionals are focused on. As stated in the original post, the individual had no contact with customers.”

The public affairs office made a similar statement in an email to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday evening: “This individual did not have contact with customers, as stated in our original post and confirmed again today by our public health team during a site visit.”

Okinawa prefecture reported 20 new coronavirus cases and two deaths due to coronavirus complications Wednesday, according to a public health official. The prefecture has reported 2,790 cases, most of whom have recovered, and 51 deaths during the pandemic. Twitter: @JosephDitzler Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

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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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