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Hawaii News

Military and their family account for 7% of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases

In the first acknowledgement of its kind, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said military members and their families in Hawaii represent approximately 7% of the total COVID-19 cases for the state — meaning about 204 as of Thursday’s statewide count of 2,914 since the start of the outbreak.

“To date, I am pleased with the success of our collective efforts,” Adm. Phil Davidson said in a memo dated Thursday addressing coronavirus mitigation efforts in Hawaii and intended for Indo-Pacific service component commanders.

The Defense Department in most cases does not report the aggregate number of service member COVID-19 cases at individual units, bases or combatant commands out of what it says are operational security concerns.

Davidson, based at Camp H.M. Smith on Oahu, added that “despite this low percentage, we must continue to strictly enforce all related restrictions and adhere to the proper protective measures in line with state guidelines — including all recent updates — as we continue to operate in this new normal.”

According to the state, about 43,000 active duty members, 9,600 Guard and Reserve, 60,000 dependents and 20,000 military employees call Hawaii home.

As of Monday, Hawaii’s total coronavirus case count — which includes the military — stood at 3,638, with 7% requiring hospitalization, 34 deaths and 1,586 released from isolation.

All military commands in Hawaii were operating at Health Protection Condition Charlie — defined as an elevated risk of sustained community transmission, Davidson’s memo noted.

Davidson said that a 14-day “restriction of movement” or ROM, remains in effect for service members arriving on island.

“We have asked the state to remove the quarantine exemption for military family members to align with our measures already in place,” Davidson said. “To be clear, military members arriving in Hawaii must observe the 14-day ROM, and their family members must adhere to the state-directed 14-day quarantine.”

The four-star admiral also gave another warning — one of many issued by military commanders during the pandemic — about appropriate behavior.

“It is imperative to understand that our on- and off-duty conduct require the same level of risk analysis, good judgment and adherence to safety practices,” he said. “I expect our uniformed service members to set the example for the community as part of the Hawaii Ohana through risk mitigation, discipline and care for one another.”

Reports of individual cases of coronavirus on Hawaii military bases continue to trickle in, meanwhile.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii said on its Facebook page Sunday that a patron of the Mokapu Mall barber shop recently tested positive. The individual was in the barber shop on Thursday at about 3 p.m.

A day after Davidson’s memo came out, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, director of emergency management for Hawaii, reversed an earlier decision he had made and said a 14-day self-quarantine exemption previously granted for military family members arriving on “permanent change of station” orders had been revoked.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command previously said the Department of Homeland Security exempted from the state’s quarantine military members traveling on official orders to Hawaii, but the command instituted its own “restriction of movement” — which means serv­ice members are prohibited from going out for 14 days except for “essential” trips such as to the grocery store, doctor or pharmacy.

Hara, incident commander for the state’s coronavirus response, said in a late May memo that military members coming to Hawaii on official business were already considered “essential travel for critical infrastructure” and exempt, and that he was adding family members arriving on PCS orders to the exemption list.

The military’s restriction of movement is mandatory for service members and is advisory for family members, according to Indo- Pacific Command.

Hara’s May memo requested that family members abide by previous state stay-at-home guidelines that allowed minimal shopping and outings.

On Sunday, 144 military personnel and family members arrived in Hawaii, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. On Saturday, the number was 125, on Friday 117 and Thursday, 239.

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