Army in Stuttgart, once a coronavirus hot spot, reports no new infections over three weeks
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 22, 2020
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STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart has gone three weeks without a new confirmed coronavirus infection, military officials said, marking the longest stretch without one in months for a command that once had more than 100 cases.
“We continue to look for the virus,” Col. Jason Condrey said in a community announcement Thursday. “The virus isn’t gone and we have to be mindful of that.”
To stay on top of potential cases, the garrison recently added a rapid testing platform that can process swab specimens in less than a day. The test will be used for those showing symptoms or people in need of emergency dental treatment, the garrison said.
“With testing capabilities in-house, we should be able to run those results within an 8-hour period and contact them,” Stuttgart health clinic commander Lt. Col. Maria Bruton said in a garrison statement Thursday.
Still, the lack of new cases — there has been just one in the past five weeks — is a sharp turnaround for a military community that in early April accounted for more coronavirus cases than any other overseas base.
On April 8, there were 103 cases in Stuttgart — more than in all of South Korea and Japan combined.
After its initial surge in cases, Army officials in Stuttgart cracked down with strict social distancing rules, limits on when community members could visit places such as the commissary and an extensive testing program.
Some restrictions are beginning to loosen. This week, garrison leaders lifted a policy that allowed people to only visit the commissary and post exchange twice a month. And last week, Army leaders relaxed travel limits for personnel in Stuttgart, allowing them to travel freely within Germany so long as trips don’t require overnight stays.
Condrey urged community members to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing vigilance.
“One misstep” could reverse the positive trend, Condrey said.