Wiesbaden Army coronavirus cases linked to schools and promotion ceremony; middle school closes

Wiesbaden Middle School was ordered closed to in-person learning, possibly until Jan. 4, 2021, after a spike in coronavirus cases. The students will shift to virtual learning.


By STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2020

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Wiesbaden Middle School classrooms closed Tuesday through the beginning of January after a spike in coronavirus cases, a move that coincided with a recent in-person promotion ceremony at the garrison involving multiple community members that later tested positive.

Remote learning will continue at the middle school until winter break, with students potentially returning to class Jan. 4, Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe spokesman Stephen Smith said.

School officials did not disclose how many students and staff members tested positive.

“The impact of quarantined staff is what is driving the transition to remote learning,” Smith said in an email response Tuesday.

Isabel White, the acting principal at Wiesbaden Middle School, said in a letter to families and staff Monday that the school was closing to in-person instruction “as a result of the number of DODEA employees and students identified as close contacts” through public health tracing.

Base schools across Europe have been forced to temporarily shut down their classrooms for varying lengths of time because of new coronavirus cases. Wiesbaden Elementary School, which had closed for two weeks because of virus cases, reopened Monday, Smith said. Wiesbaden High School also remains open.

The closure at the middle school also comes less than two weeks after a Nov. 13 promotion ceremony at the Wiesbaden garrison, which U.S. Army Europe and Africa said Tuesday was attended by less than 50 people, a “handful” of whom later tested positive for the virus.

Beth Clemons, a USAREUR-AF spokeswoman, said it was unclear why the ceremony wasn’t held virtually. During the coronavirus pandemic, it has become routine for various commands across Europe to conduct virtual ceremonies to reduce the risks of transmission.

During the event, which was attended by Wiesbaden garrison commander Col. Mario Washington, masks were worn and social distancing was maintained, Clemons said. Washington was tested after the event, but his test results and those of more than a dozen others came back negative, Clemons said.

“We are reiterating guidance to all to remain vigilant and not become complacent,” Clemons said. in an email. “The health, welfare, and readiness of our force, our families’ and our community is our top priority and we must all continue to follow host nation and command guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Wiesbaden city experienced a 20% increase in average active coronavirus cases during the period from Nov. 16 through Monday, according to German public health data.