Navy Considers Quarantine for Vaccinated Visitors to Guantánamo Bay

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Navy Considers Quarantine for Vaccinated Visitors to Guantánamo Bay

The U.S. Navy is considering reinstating a quarantine for visitors to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after the discovery that two vaccinated journalists who visited the remote base last week returned to the United States infected with the coronavirus.

The journalists were among about 80 people who traveled from the Washington, D.C., area on July 26 for a hearing in a military commissions case. The group returned to the mainland three days later, and two of the reporters discovered over the weekend that they had Covid-19. Other travelers were being tested on Monday.

About 6,000 people live at the base and more than a third of the adults there have declined vaccination, according to base health officials. Guantánamo has yet to receive vaccines for the several hundred residents under the age of 18. Most are the children of sailors who serve on longer-term assignments there.

Guantánamo, which has consistently refused to disclose its Covid infection rate throughout the pandemic, has managed to avoid a widespread outbreak through isolation of new arrivals and testing.

The Navy base lifted the quarantine requirement on vaccinated visitors about two months ago, but continued to require visitors and returning residents who are unvaccinated to spend two weeks in self-isolation, in case they were asymptomatic carriers.

Quarantining those who are vaccinated — for seven days instead of 14 — would allow base health officials to monitor the new arrivals for symptoms.

Vaccinated travelers who arrived starting Tuesday were to be tested upon arrival.

Guantánamo had eased its masking and social distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals in recent weeks. Three weeks ago, spectators at a court hearing for an Iraqi prisoner sat six feet apart.

Then last week, the military permitted spectators to sit three feet apart, wearing no masks, to observe a pre-sentencing hearing of a Pakistani man who has admitted serving as a courier for Al Qaeda.

Inside the courtroom, Army guards providing security wore masks, while the Air Force judge in the case and some lawyers did not.

All the journalists who observed the proceedings were required to be vaccinated and present a negative P.C.R. test within 72 hours of flight time.

Separately Monday, lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the prisoner who is accused of plotting the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asked the chief judge of military commissions to postpone a hearing in the case scheduled to begin on Sept. 6.

Mr. Mohammed’s lawyers cited a resurgence of Covid infections, the vaccination refusal rate and the lack of a full-time trial judge to evaluate the situation as their reasons for delay.

The last hearing in the case against Mr. Mohammed and four other men who are accused of being his accomplices took place at Guantánamo in February 2020, just before the declaration of the pandemic.

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