Two patients who sought medical care at a Fort Benning hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, the highly contagious disease caused by the coronavirus, military officials confirmed this weekend.
News of the positive test results comes as military bases across Georgia are scrambling to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus among U.S. servicemembers, civilians and their families.
Located near Columbus, Fort Benning is not identifying either of the two patients, citing federal health privacy rules.
But one sought help at Martin Army Community Hospital for an “underlying health condition” and was placed in intensive care there before being transferred to St. Francis Hospital. After the patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the people who provided the patient with medical care at Martin were placed in “mandatory quarantine.”
“My leadership team and I are committed to the continued safety of Fort Benning and the local community,” Martin Commander Col. Melissa Hoffman said in a statement on the hospital’s Facebook page Saturday. “We are actively engaged and monitoring COVID-19 and will continue coordinating with post leadership, military and civilian health care agencies to mitigate the effects of this virus.”
St. Francis said it has isolated the patient and is working with state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Additionally, we are implementing strict visitor restrictions, moving to a zero-visitor protocol. We have already limited entry to the hospital as well,” St. Francis spokeswoman Becky Young said. “Per CDC guidelines, everyone entering our facility will be screened for respiratory symptoms and travel history.”
Also Saturday, Fort Benning announced a “family member” connected to the military post tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling overseas and returning to Georgia in early March. The patient visited Martin for help with COVID-19 symptoms and was received by the hospital’s emergency room staff through a “screening entrance.” Martin confirmed the patient’s positive COVID-19 test results Saturday.
Since March 12, the patient has “self-quarantined” at home, which is not located on the military post, Fort Benning said.
The military is limiting access to Fort Benning and taking the temperatures of people arriving for training, asking them about travel abroad and potential exposure to infected people. Fort Benning has also established an area for people who require mandatory 14-day observation.
“The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning will take the necessary precautions to protect our community to the best of our ability,” said Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the military installation’s commanding general.
“We will make decisions based on facts and analysis as the situation continues to change. We will continue to work with our local partners to ensure we do everything we can to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our force, our families and our communities.”
As of midday Sunday, there were 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, including two in Muscogee County, where Fort Benning is located, according to the Georgia Department of Health. Twenty-three people in Georgia have died from the illness.
On Wednesday, Robins Air Force Base confirmed nine people there who recently returned from traveling abroad were directed to “stay at home or other appropriate domicile coordinated with their leadership for 14 days, practice social distancing and conduct self-monitoring.”
The day before, a spokesman at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield near Georgia’s coast said about 25 U.S. servicemembers and Department of the Army civilians were “under a precautionary 14-day observation and monitoring period, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.”
“The majority of those personnel came to Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield from overseas locations and are at both on- and off-post locations,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Husted, a spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division, which is based at Fort Stewart.
Four soldiers from Fort Gordon, in the Augusta area, completed a two-week quarantine this month after returning home from South Korea, said Buz Yarnell, a spokesman for the military installation.
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