Coronavirus closes schools, threatens operations, continues to spread

Elizabeth Howe
February 26, 2020 - 10:19 am
Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Scotland

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The first active duty U.S. soldier has been diagnosed with coronavirus and installations continue to postpone operations and close facilities as the disease spreads.

South Korea

A 23-year-old male stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive for coronavirus marking the first U.S. active duty service member diagnosed as the disease continues to spread and impact U.S. military operations across Asia. 

American soldier tests positive for coronavirus in South Korea

At a meeting between Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and South Korean Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, Jeong said the situation is "quite serious" and that joint training operations in the region — which have already been drawn back — could be further postponed. There are 13 confirmed coronavirus cases in the South Korean military in addition to the one U.S. military case. 

South Korea has the second-largest number of cases in the world with more than 1,200. In the last week, the number of infections has increased 15-fold. United States Forces Korea announced in a news release that they are "implementing all appropriate control measures" to help prevent the spread of the disease, but the risk level remains "high" for USFK peninsula-wide "as a prudent measure to protect the force."

A military dependent in South Korea has been diagnosed with coronavirus

The Department of Defense Education Activity has closed DoDEA schools in South Korea. According to Col. Edward Ballanco, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and a golf course at the four U.S. bases near Daegu in South Korea have been closed. All restaurants on the installations are serving only take-out meals. The U.S. has roughly 28,500 troops in the country.

Europe

In Europe, facilities have been similarly closed at Aviano Air Base and U.S. Army Garrison Italy, Vicenza to include children and youth services, fitness centers, theaters, and worship services. On Sunday, Italy announced 132 confirmed cases and two deaths. Aviano Air Base announced a Town Hall for Monday evening so base leadership and representatives from the 31st Medical Group could answer questions about coronavirus for military personnel stationed on the installation.  

Other installations in Europe are similarly planning.

"We're anticipating an increase in the number of cases reported in Germany," Gen. Tod Wolters, head of U.S. European Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. Germany currently has 16 confirmed cases. 

Stateside

In the United States, 57 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported. All but 14 of the cases are evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined off the coast of Tokyo as the virus spread on board. Two chartered evacuation flights from the cruise ship were flown to Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. 

Three of the 14 cases not included in the Diamond Princess evacuees were individuals who were evacuated from China by the U.S. State Department to U.S. military installations in California. March Air Force Base was the first military installation to receive evacuees for quarantine but since then the Department of Defense has offered up more than a dozen installations to house Department of Health and Human Services as well as those who were possibly in contact with the virus. The installations include sites in Colorado, California, Texas, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia. 

First new virus case found among evacuees from China to US

Worldwide, more than 80,000 cases have been diagnosed in 34 countries and at least 2,700 have died according to the World Health Organization. President Donald Trump is expected to address the country in a news conference with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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