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Coronavirus cases more than doubled in Kaiserslautern area in one week, officials say

People walk down Marktstrasse in downtown Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 25, 2020. The number of active coronavirus cases more than doubled in the Kaiserslautern area, which is home to tens of thousands of U.S. troops and their families, in the past week, and is up sharply around Germany, officials said.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 25, 2020

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The number of active coronavirus cases in the Kaiserslautern area, which is home to one of the largest overseas U.S. military communities in the world, more than doubled in the past week as new infections rose around Germany during a popular time for vacations.

But while Kaiserslautern officials said the increase in infections in the area was limited, Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said more young people were being affected and called on the “entire population” to renew efforts to stem the spread of the virus.

“There is currently no lockdown in (Kaiserslautern) city and district,” district commissioner Ralf Lessmeister said in a Facebook post Monday. “We have the situation under control so far, as the infection numbers are mostly family-related.”

Thirty people had the coronavirus in the city of Kaiserslautern as of Monday, and 34 in the surrounding district, which is similar to a U.S. county, according to a statement posted on the district’s website. There were a combined 25 confirmed active cases in the city and district last week.

Eight of the active cases were among U.S. service members, data posted by Lessmeister on Monday showed. Tens of thousands of troops, their families and civilians working for the Defense Department live in the area, including at Ramstein Air Base and Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.

Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Germany in late January, 28 American service members in the Kaiserslautern region have had the virus, according to Lessmeister. None of them has died and 10 of the infections occurred this month, the district data he posted showed.

There were nearly 7,000 new infections a day in Germany in late March, when numbers peaked and much of the country locked down. By the second week of May, the number of new infections was down to less than 800 a day, with some attributing the drop to strict measures imposed by officials in Germany’s 16 states.

But infections have been creeping up this month and on Friday the number of new cases in a single day hit 1,737, the highest since April, health officials said.

The Robert Koch Institute on Monday called the upward trend “very concerning” and blamed it primarily on travelers, especially younger people, entering Germany from abroad, and more people attending large social gatherings.

“The increase (in new cases) in younger age groups needs to be stopped,” RKI said.

“Transmission into older and vulnerable groups needs to be prevented” if Germany is to avoid a spike in hospitalizations and deaths, it said.

It called on Germans and residents to practice physical distancing, both indoors and outdoors; to wash their hands frequently, and to wear face masks covering the nose and mouth.

“Large gatherings — especially indoors — should be avoided, and (social) events … should be limited to close family members and friends,” RKI said on its website.

German politicians are debating whether restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus should be applied uniformly across the nation instead of allowing each state to decide how tackle the virus, which has claimed 9,272 lives out of more than 233,500 cases in the country since January.

U.S. military commands have followed the lead of the German federal and state governments when setting coronavirus guidelines for troops and their families.

Stars and Stripes reporter Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.

kloeckner.marcus@stripes.com

People walk down Fackelstrasse in downtown Kaiserslautern, Germany, Aug. 25, 2020. The number of active coronavirus cases more than doubled in the Kaiserslautern area, which is home to tens of thousands of U.S. troops and their families, in the past week, and is up sharply around Germany, officials said.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

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