The Air Force is investigating whether airman in Guam broke quarantine and triggered a COVID-19 outbreak

Author:
Publish date:
U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft fly in a formation over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during exercise COPE North 20, Feb. 19, 2020.

U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft fly in a formation over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during exercise COPE North 20, Feb. 19, 2020.

An Air Force base in Guam is experiencing a major spike in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, and officials are investigating whether any airmen bear responsibility after violating any mandatory protection measures.

Thirty-five airmen belonging to the same unit, which deployed to Guam on May 25, have tested positive for COVID-19 at Anderson Air Force Base in the last week, according to 36th Wing officials.

The airmen had been quarantined at the Guam Reef Hotel in the island's Tumon shopping district until the seven cases was discovered on Wednesday, prompting officials to relocate the airmen to Andersen AFB for medical observation.

“Preliminary evidence in a public health investigation revealed the possibility that some of these members may not have adhered to Andersen and local Public Health directives,” Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, commander of the 36th Wing, said in a statement.

Related: 3 US soldiers punished for sneaking off to a bar in South Korea despite COVID-19 restrictions

Twenty active-duty service members and two Defense Department health care workers from Andersen were confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to a statement from the governor of Guam's office, bringing cases among U.S. military personnel to 42 of Guam's 222 cases.

“All military members are subject to the established public health emergency protocols,” Boswell said in his statement. “If the ensuing investigation determines that members did not follow these directives in a disciplined manner, they will be held accountable for their actions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

According to Stars and Stripes, Andersen officials believe the outbreak is unrelated to the USS Theodore Roosevelt's prolonged stay at Naval Base Guam as the aircraft carrier worked to contain its own COVID-19 outbreak, and outbreak which eventually sickened 1,150 sailors. 

While two airmen who arrived at the base on April 9 as part of the medical response to the Theodore Roosevelt outbreak eventually tested positive for the virus, they “did not have contact with the unit lodged at Guam Reef and the cases are unrelated," according to the statement.

“Despite this setback, Andersen AFB remains 100% operational and is able to execute all of its assigned missions,” Boswell said his statement. “The joint team that comprises Team Andersen remain poised and ready to fulfill our mission to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region and provide security for the territory of Guam.”

Related: Watch quarantined Theodore Roosevelt sailors take to balconies to cheer for the Marines helping them