TOKYO – Masks took off at several U.S. military installations across Japan on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. military agreed to ease that part of the pandemic.
Misawa Air Base in northeastern Japan, Sasebo Naval Base on the southern island of Kyushu and Yokosuka Naval Base, home of the US 7th Fleet south of Tokyo, updated their public health orders to reflect the fact that masks are no longer required on these installations. indoors or outdoors, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.
Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and Kadena Air Base and Marine Corps bases in Okinawa lowered their mask requirements on Monday.
Some exceptions apply, including medical and dental facilities and Air Mobility Command terminals. Tenant organizations may require masks inside their facilities. Yokosuka, for example, requires masks for children’s and youth programs.
Most commands also warned against harassing people who choose to or must wear masks.
Some people are required to disguise themselves because they have received COVID-19, have been exposed to someone with the disease or have symptoms of it. Others may be immunocompromised or simply choose to wear a mask.
Masks are required outside the base of anyone in Japan according to the status of the force agreement, according to an order updated Monday by US Forces Japan.
The USFJ lowered the mask requirement because the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has dropped to a societal level considered low or medium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a command statement sent to Stars and Stripes on Monday.
New COVID-19 cases in Tokyo dropped to 4,836 on Monday, the lowest number of one-days there since 4,172 on January 16th. On Tuesday, the city reported that 7,836 people were tested positive for the virus, according to public television station NHK.
Japan on Monday reported 32,359 new COVID-19 infections, the lowest it has reported since 37,002 on March 7, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Another 116 people died Monday from complications of the disease.
The USFJ on Monday reported 73 new COVID-19 cases at 13 installations over the previous 24 hours. The command last reported 99 infections on Thursday. None of these cases are considered serious or hospitalized.
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni accounted for 13 in the Monday update. Separately, in two news releases this week, the airport reported 33 new cases between Friday and Monday.
Yokosuka Naval Base accounted for 12 in the USFJ’s Monday update. Misawa Air Base had nine.
Kadena Air Base, which dropped its mask mandate, with some exceptions, on Monday, reported a total of 114 cases there, according to an update on its website the same day.
Okinawa Prefecture, where Kadena and most of the III Marine Expeditionary Force are located, reported 832 new cases on Monday and Tuesday, along with 52 in the U.S. military population on the island, according to the prefecture’s Department of Public Health and Medical Care.
Stars and Stripes reporter Mari Higa contributed to this report.