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USFK sees surge in COVID-19 cases


 

A screenshot shows a video shared on Snapchat of a holiday appreciation event organized on Dec. 17 by the 65th Medical Brigade subordinate to the US Eighth Army at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. (Snapchat)

A screenshot shows a video shared on Snapchat of a holiday appreciation event organized on Dec. 17 by the 65th Medical Brigade subordinate to the US Eighth Army at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. (Snapchat)

A total of 467 people affiliated with the US Forces Korea tested positive for the new coronavirus in the week ending Dec. 27, according to data from the US Forces Korea released Thursday. 

The US military counted 457 cases among service members at its Osan base and Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, and 10 from overseas arrivals. 

The weekly figure marks a steep rise from 75 cases reported in the previous week of Dec. 14-20. It was also the highest since Nov. 9. 

The latest cases brought the total caseload among the USFK population to 2,345, data showed. 

Infected service members and affiliated individuals are placed in isolation at a facility designated for confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Osan base and Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek or at their residence, according to a statement from the USFK. 

Regarding the sudden spike in cases, criticism has surfaced over a lack of social distancing and mask wearing witnessed at a year-end gathering held at Camp Humphreys. 

On Dec. 17, nearly 400 gathered for the 65th Medical Brigade’s holiday appreciation event. That was a day before the Korean government tightened social distancing measures limiting private gatherings to a maximum of four people and imposed a 9 p.m. curfew on cafes and restaurants. 
 

A screenshot shows a video shared on Snapchat of a holiday appreciation event organized on Dec. 17 by the 65th Medical Brigade subordinate to the US Eighth Army at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. (Snapchat)

A screenshot shows a video shared on Snapchat of a holiday appreciation event organized on Dec. 17 by the 65th Medical Brigade subordinate to the US Eighth Army at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. (Snapchat)

A since-deleted video on mobile app Snapchat showed participants — many not wearing masks — seated at round tables as they are served meals, with female performers dancing along to a song by girl group Blackpink.

At that time, such an event was allowed with a maximum capacity of 499 people, if all are fully vaccinated or have received a negative PCR test result.

The USKF said the medical unit’s event did not violate the Korean government’s regulations, as 98 percent of the participants were vaccinated and the rest had submitted a negative antigen test. 

“The 65th Medical Brigade military holiday appreciation event took place at US Army Garrison-Humphreys on Dec. 17, before the Korean government’s social distancing measures went into effect. The health and safety of our people is the Brigade’s, and the Army’s number one priority,” it said. 

On social media, however, users, including one who sent the video to The Korea Herald, criticized the military, saying they should have been more careful in consideration of the resurgence in daily infections across Korea as well as its previous cluster infections. 

The US military earlier sparked controversy for hosting a no-mask dance party on Aug. 22 at a club inside the Osan Air Base.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)





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