A Maine-based Navy reservist has tested “presumptive positive” for the new strain of coronavirus, the Navy announced Thursday.
The reservist is a woman assigned to the Naval Operational Support Center in Bangor, Maine, Navy Reserve Force spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale told Navy Times.
She has been quarantined at home and those with whom she had “close contact with have been notified and are in self-isolation at their residence,” added a news release issued Thursday afternoon by the Chief of Naval Information.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced the COVID-19 case, the state’s first, earlier Thursday. While it did not identify the woman, Mills said she is in her 50s and lives in Androscoggin County, near the coast.
The Navy’s Tisdale declined to say when or where the woman last drilled or listed her rating or rank. The Associated Press reported late Thursday that the reservist contracted COVID-19 in Italy.
“Health professionals are conducting a thorough contact investigation to determine whether any other personnel may have been in close contact and possibly exposed,” the Navy said in a statement. “Depending on the results of that investigation, additional precautionary measures may be taken.”
The case marks the first among naval reservists but the second for the Navy. On March 5, a sailor at Naval Support Activity Naples tested positive for the disease, becoming the first COVID-19 case of an American service member in Europe.
Late Wednesday, the Pentagon announced travel restrictions for service members and families for “Warning Level 3”-designated countries, which includes much of Europe.
Clinical tests taken in states and their communities that appear to indicate COVID-19 infection are marked “presumptive positive” until certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Thursday, the Navy issued its own, similar, directive hours after Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa released travel guidance for personnel based in Italy as the country has announced a massive lockdown amid its own attempts to contain coronavirus.
Italy has been among the hardest hit in the outbreak, reporting more than 12,400 cases and at least 827 deaths as of Thursday, according to the World Health Organization. With hospitals at the point of collapse, the country’s government has banned most travel, except for work, medical, worship and food shopping purposes.
Nearly all shopping has been shut down, with the exception of grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies, in an effort to corral the pandemic.
There are more than 4,584 active duty Navy, reservists and civilian personnel assigned to Italy, according to the February 2020 figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center.
Foggo wrote of the need to “respect the measures taken by our host nation."
“As of Monday evening, the entire nation has been identified as a protective zone, which has implications for all of us, and as of yesterday evening, the Italian government issued additional measures that enforce their efforts to limit movement and control the spread of the virus,” Foggo wrote. “These measures are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep us all safe.”
One of those measures calls for those who must travel to carry a document self-certifying the purpose for their trip should they be stopped by authorities. Foggo urged personnel have a hard-copy of the document in their possession while traveling. The form declares that the traveler is aware of the Italians’ efforts to contain the coronavirus as well as penalties for non-compliance.
“Remember that these documents do not authorize travel,” Foggo wrote. “Travel must still be in accordance with the requirements to limit trips to only those that are necessary. The documents are a statement of a person’s reason for travel and the forms may be evaluated by the Italian authorities to determine if the travel complied with the travel restrictions.”
The Navy Region Europe command web site says that some Campania-based personnel were stopped while traveling from their off-base housing to shop at their local Naval Exchange and Commissary. They were told they had to instead shop in their town.
“Please clearly articulate on the form that you do your grocery shopping on the U.S. Navy Support Site in Gricignano,” the site said. “That, combined with your DOD ID card, will allow you to pass freely and to continue shopping at the Gricignano Commissary and NEX.”
Those with concerns are urged to contact their commands.
Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.