U.S. Forces in South Korea Reports 1st Novel Coronavirus Patient

USFK flags

Korea’s Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has informed US Forces Korea that a U.S. military dependent in the city of Daegu tested positive for COVID-19, making it the first time a USFK individual has tested positive.

UPDATE: Since this post was published, USFK has announced that an active-duty American soldier has been infected with COVID-19.

The announcement came out of Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek City, where the 8th Army is located. Pyeongtaek is about 100 miles northwest of Daegu, the city where in recent days a surge in confirmed cases of Covid-19 has spiked the South Korean total to over 830.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed United States Forces Korea today that a USFK dependent living in Daegu tested positive for COVID-19, making this the first time a USFK-related individual has tested positive for the virus.

The patient, a 61-year old female, visited Camp Walker’s Post Exchange on Feb. 12 and 15, and KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed.

USFK encourages all personnel to continue to practice strict proper hygiene procedures as the best ways to prevent the spread of viruses and protect the USFK population: wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, do not touch your face or eyes with unclean hands, avoid handshaking and unnecessary contact with others, non-mission essential large gatherings, clean all common-use areas and items, use caution when traveling off-installation, and most importantly if feeling sick or ill, avoid going to work or school and seek medical treatment for proper diagnosis.

USFK had earlier upgraded the risk level at the U.S. Army Garrison in Daegu from low to moderate, to help mitigate transmission of what the Koreans refer to as the Corona19 virus. Since the announcement of this first case, USFK has raised the risk level to “high.”

The confirmed case is a 61-year old female dependent living in Daegu, South Korea’s fourth largest city. She is a U.S. national, the widow of a soldier.

The US military says she visited Camp Walker on February 12 and 15. She was tested on the 22nd by local health authorities. Her test result came back positive by the 24th.

Coronavirus Timeline

USAG Daegu commissaries are located on Camps Walker and Carroll. They are fully stocked and new shipments of fresh produce arrive daily.

The garrison’s gate hours have been reduced, and starting February 21, temperature checks have been required for anyone wanting to enter the U.S. military post. Visitor access in general has been restricted.

As of Monday, the total number of Covid-19 cases in South Korea has soared past 830, with the majority of stricken individuals living in Daegu.

There have been at least eight deaths directly linked to the novel coronavirus.

The South Korean military also has 13 soldiers infected with the virus. About 7,500 South Korean soldiers are under quarantine.

Over the weekend, local media in South Korea buzzed with an unconfirmed report that a U.S. soldier in Pyeongtaek had tested positive for the virus. USFK denied the veracity of the report and requested a retraction.

There are approximately 23,000 American troops stationed in the Republic of Korea.

Meanwhile, North Korea insists that none of its residents has been infected with Covid-19.

South Korea’s stocks markets dropped nearly 4 percent on Monday amidst actions taken by the government to deal with the pandemic.

President Moon Jae-in’s government has ordered daycares, kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools to remain closed until at least March 9. The culture ministry has ordered two dozen public museums and libraries to temporarily close. Legislative and judicial branches are moving to suspend sessions.

In sports, the country’s professional soccer league has also postponed its opening.

Israel and Bahrain are among a growing number of countries that have banned entry of South Koreans.

In contrast, despite calls from the opposition and medical groups to ban the entry of Chinese into the ROK, President Moon’s government reiterated on Monday that it would not discriminate based on nationality.

There are 70,000 Chinese students enrolled in South Korean universities who are on their way back in after spending the Lunar New Year holidays in China. New protocol dictates that they observe a 14-day quarantine in single rooms on campus; however, the country does not appear to have the means to implement the policy.

Wednesday update from Seoul: 169 new cases bring total to 1,146 confirmed