US Forces-Korea Raises its COVID-19 Alert Status as Cases Spike in Seoul

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Disinfection operation in Daegu, Republic of Korea.
19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 2nd Operations Command, Republic of Korea Army conducted a combined disinfection operation at an apartment complex in Daegu, Republic of Korea Mar. 13, 2020. (Kevin Bell/U.S. Army)

U.S. Forces-Korea, a relative success story in the battle against COVID-19, has boosted its Health Protection Condition, or HPCON, a notch for troops and their families, following an outbreak of new cases in the metropolitan Seoul area.

"The threat of the virus still remains," Army Gen. Robert B. "Abe" Abrams, the USFK commander, said Aug. 14 as he announced that the local HPCON had been raised from "Bravo" to "Charlie," limiting access to bases and restricting travel to Seoul.

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The HPCON status was raised "out of an abundance of caution," USFK said in a statement.

"While the USFK community has done a remarkable job keeping COVID-19 out of our formations, installations and communities, we must continue to remain aware of our surroundings and not let down our guard," Abrams said.

USFK has maintained an infection rate of less than 1% in the total military community on the peninsula, which includes about 28,500 troops and another 30,000 military family members, contractors and other personnel, it said.

USFK has not had a positive COVID-19 case since mid-April. Before April, a total of 24 positive cases were reported in the community, and all have recovered, according to USFK.

However, five U.S. troops arriving in South Korea from the U.S. have tested positive, it announced Monday. The new positive cases brought the total among troops arriving from the U.S. to South Korea to 157 since April, USFK said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday that 197 more cases of the novel coronavirus had been detected in the greater Seoul area, sparking fears of a resurgence.

The additions brought the total number of cases in South Korea to 15,515, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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