Over 50 percent of people testing positive for the coronavirus on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in Washington state are fully vaccinated. Thousands of US service members have been discharged or disciplined for refusing the vaccine mandated by President Joe Biden.
According to a JBLM COVID-19 Fact Sheet (Blue Hash) dated Jan 3 obtained by The Post Millennial, "COVID positive rates continue to climb across the installation and in the surrounding area with OMICRON now suspected to be the dominant variant."
"COVID positive case rate continue to climb across the installation and in the surrounding area with OMICRON now suspected to be the dominant variant. Over 50% of the people testing positive are FULLY VACCINATED," the JBLM COVID-19 Response Factsheet reads.
The document went on to state that health risks to personnel are minimal because "Omicron still appears to have mild to no symptoms and can mimic cold and mild flu like symptoms."
Base personnel who test positive or exhibit symptoms are required to isolate for 5 days and can only leave after a negative COVID test. Close contacts are also required to quarantine but can leave isolation without a test if they do not exhibit symptoms.
The document also stated that to avoid overwhelming the testing center individuals without symptoms unless they are scheduled for surgery or travel, or are under the age of 35 with mild symptoms.
COL Joey Sullinger, Director of I Corps Public Affairs, told The Post Millennial "Joint Base Lewis-McChord is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and vaccinated breakthrough infections similar to and reflective of the rates in the surrounding communities. As cases increase, there is evidence from research studies that the COVID-19 vaccine offers substantial protection against severe illness and reduces the risk of severe sicknesses, hospitalization and even death from COVID-19."
Sullinger added that, "We are unable to release installation specific numbers because of operational security concerns," and referred inquiries to the Department of Defense public affairs.
The DOD did not return requests for comment.
2,994 soldiers were issued general officer written reprimands for refusing the vaccination order, according to an Army press release published last week.
97 percent of active-duty soldiers have taken at least one dose of a vaccine, which leaves approximately 9,500 who have not taken the vaccine. That number includes 5,921 who have requested temporary exemptions and 3,611 who have refused entirely.
However, according to the Army, "As of January 11, the Army has not involuntarily separated any Soldiers solely for refusing the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As previously announced, this month Army officials intend to issue further guidance for the mandatory initiation of separation for Soldiers who refuse this lawful order."
According to American Military News, "The percentage of soldiers who are either partially or completely vaccinated drops to 78 percent in the Army Reserve."
"As of January 11, the Army has approved just five of the 653 medical exemption requests and has disapproved 595. Of the 2,128 religious exemption requests, the Army has not approved a single applicant and has disapproved 162."
On Thursday, the US Marine Corps announced it had approved its first two religious exemptions to the military-wide coronavirus vaccine mandate, which are the first religious exemptions to be granted across the entire military since the beginning of President Joe Biden’s military-wide coronavirus vaccination order.
In December, the Marine Corps fired 103 Marines, and the Army removed six active-duty leaders, included two battalion commanders, from service for refusing to take the jab.
Earlier this month a federal judge in Texas blocked the Department of Defense from punishing 35 Navy members who refused the coronavirus vaccine due to religious objections.
87 members of the Air Force were terminated for refusing the vaccine. According to the Air Force, over 1,000 airmen have chosen to not get the COVID vaccine and more than 4,700 more are requesting a religious exemption.
As of last week, the Air Force granted 1,672 medical exemptions and 2,094 administrative exemptions, according to a Department of the Air Force release.
According to Stars and Stripes, administrative exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a member secured a commander-approved submission for separation or retirement by Nov. 1, they are administratively exempt.
No religious accommodations have been approved, and almost 2,400 religious accommodation requests have been denied, as well as 248 appeals. There remain 2,158 religious exemption requests pending, with 148 appeals.