US Military Dependent Tests Positive for Coronavirus in South Korea

checking temperatures before allowing people to enter Camp Walker in the coronavirus-hit city of Daegu, South Korea
Pvt. Hector Mercado, 23, of the 25th Transportation Battalion, checks temperatures before allowing people to enter Camp Walker in the coronavirus-hit city of Daegu, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Stars and Stripes photo/Kim Gamel)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- A U.S. military dependent who visited base facilities on a southeastern base tested positive for the new coronavirus in South Korea, officials said Monday, as they raised the risk level for the military community to high.

South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "informed us today a [U.S. Forces Korea] dependent in Daegu tested positive for COVID-19, making this the first time a USFK individual has tested positive," a USFK statement said.

"USFK has raised the risk level to 'high' for USFK peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force," it added.

No active-duty service members have tested positive for the coronavirus that has rapidly spread in the country over the past week, Camp Humphreys garrison commander Col. Michael Tremblay said separately at a town hall-style meeting Monday.

He said the woman who tested positive was a 61-year-old widowed dependent.

USFK said the woman had visited the post exchange on Feb. 12 and 15 at Camp Walker in the southeastern city of Daegu, which has been the epicenter of a recent outbreak.

South Korean and USFK health professionals were working to determine whether any others may have been exposed, according to a press release.

The command encouraged all personnel to continue to practice strict proper hygiene measures, including frequently and thoroughly washing hands, avoiding handshakes and unnecessary contact with others.

Camp Humphreys, the main U.S. military base in South Korea, also closed its schools for the week as a precautionary measure.

Tremblay said some troops had been quarantined "out of an abundance of caution" either because they had been to China or because they had been tested for the virus and were awaiting the results.

"We have had a number of service members and dependents who have been tested," he said, stressing that none had tested positive.

The decision to go to health protection condition Charlie, the second-highest level behind Delta, came as the number of confirmed cases in South Korea soared past 800, with eight deaths.

"We're moving it to HPCON Charlie today," Tremblay said, adding the decision had only recently been made and officials were still working on the details of what that means.

"We are going to begin to limit all soldier movement," he said, adding that schools on Camp Humphreys, the main U.S. base in South Korea, would be closed for the week.

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