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A soldier uses a hand-washing station in Stuttgart in March, one measure taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus at an Army garrison with more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
A soldier uses a hand-washing station in Stuttgart in March, one measure taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus at an Army garrison with more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases. (John Reese/U.S. Army)

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STUTTGART, Germany — More than 100 members of the military community in Stuttgart have tested positive for the coronavirus, but Army leaders at the hard-hit garrison say there are signs that the rate of new infections is slowing.

To date, 103 people have tested positive for the virus, Stuttgart garrison commander Col. Jason Condrey said during an online town hall meeting Tuesday. But roughly half of those people have recovered and the number of people in self-quarantine or isolation also has declined, Condrey said.

“With that news comes a threat … and that’s complacency,” said Condrey, who urged community members to remain vigilant when it comes to practicing social distancing and maintaining good hygiene.

The military’s first coronavirus infection in Stuttgart surged quickly after the first case was confirmed March 14. Stuttgart, a major metropolitan area in Germany, has had more coronavirus infections among its personnel than all bases in Japan and South Korea combined.

It’s unclear what the current number of infections is within the military in Europe. On March 30, the Defense Department issued guidance that said installations worldwide must stop announcing coronavirus case figures among their personnel.

Since then, commands in Europe have made it a policy not to release detailed information, citing operational security concerns. Before the policy change, there were roughly 130 cases in Germany alone, according to a Stars and Stripes tally.

U.S. Army Europe on Wednesday said it believed Stuttgart was still in compliance with the Pentagon directive, since the positive test figure was offset by information about those who have recovered.

“In the case of the Stuttgart Town Hall, the commander stated the number of those who tested positive in the past, and highlighted that more than 50% had recovered,” USAREUR said in a statement. “The specific number of current positive cases on the installation was not released, thus providing useful information to the public while also maintaining operational security.”

The latest numbers in Stuttgart are a signal that conditions could be improving locally, Condrey said.

A concern, however, is that there remain cases in which those who are infected could unwittingly spread the virus around, he said.

Last month, the Army in Stuttgart tested about 250 military community members without symptoms. While it hasn’t been disclosed how many of those people tested positive, Condrey said one finding was that some people “to this day” have shown no symptoms even though they had the virus.

The Pentagon on Sunday issued a new policy to deal with such concerns, calling for personnel to wear masks if they cannot maintain social distancing standards. Condrey said when he ventures out around base, he will be among the troops wearing a mask, even while practicing social distancing.

“I’m going to wear something over my face,” he said. “It may be for me, it may be for someone who comes near me.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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