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Covid Cases Reach Pandemic High at Guantánamo Bay

WASHINGTON — In a pandemic high for the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the hospital there on Friday reported 69 confirmed coronavirus cases among about 6,000 residents on the base.

None of the infected people required hospitalization, medical evacuation or monoclonal antibody treatment, said Dawn Grimes, the spokeswoman at the base hospital, which serves both the community and the detention operation holding 39 wartime prisoners.

She did not comment on whether any of the prisoners or roughly 1,500 military members and civilian employees who staff the operation had tested positive.

Nearly all of the 69 people who tested positive for the virus had been fully vaccinated, Ms. Grimes said. A few were partly vaccinated.

On Tuesday, the base commander, Capt. Samuel White, reinstated an indoor mask mandate for all residents in response to what he called “this uptick in cases.” That day, Ms. Grimes reported that 17 people on the base had tested positive since Dec. 1, all but one of them fully vaccinated.

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Until this week, only the estimated 900 unvaccinated people on the base had been required to wear masks indoors, making for crowds of unmasked patrons in the base’s Irish pub and at the gym.

Ms. Grimes said Friday that, in response to the surge, the base was requiring vaccinated visitors and returning residents to be tested on arrival, isolate for at least three days, and then be tested again before they can rejoin the community. Unvaccinated people have been consistently required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

She added that public health workers had at times this week carried out about 250 tests in a single day, and that the small community hospital had sufficient testing capacity to do more if needed.

“Our Covid-19 hotline team continues to field calls around the clock to answer Covid-19-related questions and to provide screening for individuals who are experiencing symptoms,” she said.

The base also introduced round-the-clock curbside testing at the hospital, which sends its most serious or complex cases to the United States for military medical care. The detainees are the exception: The Pentagon sends specialists, including neurosurgeons with specialized equipment, to treat the prisoners, many of whom are approaching their third decade in U.S. detention.

Cases rose after a Navy ship from Jacksonville, Fla., the U.S.S. Milwaukee, stayed at the base pier from Christmas through New Year’s with about one-fourth of its 105-member crew infected. Most had mild or asymptomatic cases.

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Guantánamo has reported an 85 percent vaccination rate, meaning roughly 900 base residents declined or were ineligible for vaccines. Some of them are the young children of sailors and Navy contractors who live in suburban-style housing on the base.

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