Guantánamo Bay Navy Base Raises Well being Alert and Closes Services

This text was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Middle on Disaster Reporting.

WASHINGTON — The Navy on Friday night time abruptly shut down the church, faculties, fitness center and most locations the place individuals congregate at its base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, returning to the strict restrictions it had imposed earlier within the coronavirus pandemic.

The bottom was “awaiting outcomes from exams despatched off website,” a spokeswoman, Nikki L. Maxwell, stated Saturday night time. She declined to say what number of residents had been suspected of being contaminated by the coronavirus on the base of 6,000 residents. The navy usually declines to reveal an infection figures at particular websites however has made exceptions within the Pacific.

On Thursday, base officers closed the Bayview fine-dining restaurant within the officers’ membership advanced, citing “some key employees feeling underneath the climate,” though Ms. Maxwell stated these sicknesses had been unrelated to the virus. The following night time, the bottom well being division introduced that “as an additional precautionary measure,” it was imposing a protection level of Charlie, which the navy defines as signifying the danger of “sustained neighborhood transmission” within the pandemic.

Base notices reminded residents to remain at residence and to name the hospital reasonably than go there “if you happen to really feel sick, have a fever, cough or expertise any shortness of breath.”

By Saturday, base officers had closed the varsity for the sailors’ kids, gyms for jail guards and different residents, the church advanced, the barbershop, ball fields and swimming swimming pools and had been requiring eating places to supply solely takeout. The commissary remained open, with customers restricted in quantity.

The bottom is a 45-square-mile outpost in southeast Cuba, with a small neighborhood hospital and restricted well being care services. Whereas the navy has stated the bottom has some coronavirus rapid-testing capability, Guantánamo has persistently despatched samples to the mainland United States for extra complete testing.

The restrictions recalled these in March, the earliest months of the pandemic, when the navy imposed strict limitations after a sailor getting back from depart turned sick, examined optimistic for the virus and was put underneath quarantine. Quickly after, officers adopted a coverage of not disclosing the variety of instances of the virus on the bottom, if any.

Diving within the bay, a favourite pastime on lengthy vacation weekends such because the one previous Columbus Day, which is noticed on Monday, was additionally canceled, as was a 5-kilometer run on Saturday morning celebrating the 244th birthday of the U.S. Navy, a neighborhood custom.

“I perceive this can be a difficult state of affairs for everybody right here,” notably given the vacation weekend, the bottom commander, Capt. John A. Fischer of the Navy said in an open letter to residents Saturday night time. “Please use this off-duty time to relaxation and recharge safely.”

A whole lot of troops and Navy households have arrived on the base all through the pandemic and have spent their first two weeks in quarantine as a protecting measure.

Many of the estimated 240 college students on the bottom had returned to the classroom final month for the primary time since early spring. Over the weekend, the varsity advised households it could revert to distant studying, with elementary courses delayed till Wednesday.

The pandemic has brought about the cancellation of what was expected to be a busy year of conflict crimes proceedings at Guantánamo. The final listening to was held in late February, partly due to the complication of making an attempt to handle the quarantining of a planeload of court docket personnel who commute from throughout the USA to every listening to. A small workforce from the Workplace of Navy Commissions is predicted to journey there Tuesday.

No protection legal professionals have visited the 40 wartime prisoners in the course of the pandemic, though some have communicated by military-supervised video or phone calls. The pandemic has additionally led the Worldwide Purple Cross to cancel two regularly scheduled quarterly visits, contributing to the isolation of the outpost.

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