‘Like nothing we’ve seen’: US forces in Korea reach pandemic peak with new cases of COVID-19

A 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Soldier tests a respirator to make sure it fits properly during COVID-19 prevention training at Camp Carroll, South Korea, March 24, 2020 (Hayden Hallman / US Army)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – US forces in Korea counted 467 new cases of COVID-19 during the week ending Monday, the highest number of infections reported by the command since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The USFK reported 457 locally-generated coronavirus cases between December 21 and Monday, and another 10 cases among recent arrivals in South Korea.

Army Col. Seth Graves, garrison commander at Camp Humphreys, the largest US base overseas, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the spike in cases “is unlike anything we have had. seen here on the facility since the start of the pandemic “.

Graves did not give the figures to Humphreys, but said the increase in confirmed cases was “not unique” to the garrison.

The USFK’s new tally far exceeds the previous week-long record of 58 cases in July. Thirty-one of those cases were from Camp Casey, about 15 miles from the border with North Korea.

Rise in US military cases follows new one-day record in South Korea itself of 7,849 cases confirmed as of Dec. 15, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. He reported 5,409 more on Tuesday.

Nearly 86% of the country’s 51.8 million people received the first dose of a vaccine and 82.6% are fully vaccinated on Wednesday, according to the KDCA. More than 16.5 million people in the country have received a recall.

USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters in an email to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday said orders for the components are authorized “to analyze the associated risk in their training and communities and to implement mitigation measures to maintain their position of readiness for the” fight tonight “mission. “

Force protection remains the No.1 priority, said Peters. The USFK is also “strongly encouraging” its community to get fully immunized and receive vaccine boosters, he added.

The command requires its personnel, regardless of immunization status, to wear face masks “in all indoor facility environments” in districts with at least 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period .

The USFK previously banned all staff from visiting one of the country’s “hot spot” districts, but revoked the restriction last month due to its relatively high vaccination rates and to “better align themselves.” On the plans of the South Korean government.

Unvaccinated personnel are still prohibited in bars, clubs, saunas, off-base gymnasiums and karaoke bars.

The USFK, which oversees about 28,500 US troops on the Korean Peninsula, has not identified the bases from which the new cases originated.

Earlier in the pandemic, the command provided details on the origin and status of the new cases, and whether they were uniformed personnel, civilian employees or family members. He ended the practice last month to “align” his relations with the South Korean government and the Defense Ministry.

Several government offices and restaurants at Camp Humphreys were temporarily closed this week due to escapes and testing.

David Choi



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