July 14, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
The Okinawa prefectural government announced it confirmed 32 new COVID-19 cases at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and one case at Camp Kinser, between July 12 and 13. Additionally, the Kadena Air Base Facebook page announced on the night of July 13 that one servicemember tested positive. This brings the total number of coronavirus cases at MCAS Futenma to 71, and the number of all confirmed cases among U.S. military servicemembers stationed in Okinawa (reported between March 28 and June 13) to 99. The U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa indicated before July 13 that clusters of infections surfaced at MCAS Futenma and Camp Hansen. The same day, Prefectural Deputy Director General of Health and Sanitation Toru Itokazu indicated that the 32 individuals of MCAS Futenma who tested positive had gathered in the same cluster. So far, the prefectural government has not included the number of U.S. military-related cases in its total count of all confirmed COVID-19 cases on Okinawa.
The U.S. military has not provided the Okinawan government with any information on how and where its servicemembers contracted the virus. Itokazu said he cannot rule out the possibility that the movement of servicemembers from the U.S. to Okinawa may have contributed to the outbreak and that he will expeditiously work to gather information from the U.S. Meanwhile, a Japanese civilian who attended a military Fourth of July party stated that, “An infected U.S. servicemember was at the party.” Furthermore, on July 7, five servicemembers residing on MCAS Futenma tested positive and a number of them had travelled off base. Their off-base movements are unknown.
Reiko Oshiro, Director of Health and Medical Affairs in Okinawa, said that the U.S. communicated that the confirmed COVID-19 cases on base were either asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms. Oshiro believes that, as a general rule, if any individuals on base are showing severe symptoms, the individual should be kept on base or in the Navy hospital. Itokazu, on the other hand, said: “If the Navy hospital were to reach capacity, and a servicemember’s symptoms worsen rapidly, a local hospital off-base should receive that patient.” The Okinawa government is currently working to set up channels to discuss the matter with the Navy Hospital.
Given the recent coronavirus outbreak on base, Oshiro said that any concerned base employees who contact the prefecture’s public healthcare center may receive a test, “Regardless of whether they’ve come into contact with an infected person.” Oshiro explained that specimen collection centers will be set up in the Chubu Region and that the prefectural government is currently rushing to finalize an agreement with medical facilities that have the ability to collect specimen for testing.
A representative of Kadena Air Base explained that, according to early investigations, the one servicemember who tested positive on July 13 was not confirmed to have been in contact with anyone off base, although a follow-up investigation is currently underway. Kadena Air Base has not disclosed any information on possible transmission routes.
(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)