Almost 30 U.S. personnel in Kuwait have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Defense Department official.
Navy Capt. William Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman, would not release specific numbers, but confirmed the existence of a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base in a statement to Air Force Times.
The outbreak was first reported by Military.com.
“While we will not release specific COVID-19 numbers, we can confirm there is a cluster of cases currently on Al Jaber, an air base in Kuwait that houses a number of U.S. Central Command personnel,” Urban wrote. “This cluster developed over time, and we believe social distancing and contact tracing measures [have] limited the size of that cluster.”
For example, the 407th Expeditionary Support Squadron, with support from multiple base agencies, launched the Sandstorm Field Kitchen April 15, with the goal of maximizing physical distancing.
The response to COVID-19 also includes several preventative measures such as the suspension of non-essential gatherings, cancellation of force support events and changes within dining facilities.
“Our top priority, first and foremost, is the health and welfare of our personnel,” Urban wrote in the email. “Any individual who shows possible COVID-19 symptoms or who tests positive for the virus immediately receives the best possible medical care, and that care continues for as long as necessary.”
Despite the outbreak, the virus “is not impacting our ability to execute our mission and we work to strictly adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines,” he said.
Al Jaber Air Base houses many U.S. airmen, including the Air Force’s 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which offers a wide range of combat capabilities to U.S. forces in the Levant.
CENTCOM restricted troops in the Middle East from traveling to other countries in early March to prevent the spread of the virus.
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.