By Col. Jason Condrey Commander
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart
For those of you who were here last spring when the coronavirus struck our community, host nation restrictions and guidelines are familiar to you. However, to some newcomers, our posture may come as a shock.
As good guests and in accordance with our treaty obligations, we comply with Germany’s guidelines and take steps to control our own rate of COVID-19 infection. Because conditions and how we respond continue to evolve, I’ve received several questions concerning how we will confront COVID in the coming weeks and months.
I believe we are better equipped to handle coronavirus now because of what we have learned and continue to learn since the spring. We have continued to adapt and improve. We have refined how we protect against it in our work places, in our homes and in our community.
Yes, we will see some changes. We have closed on-post bars. Food court orders will be take away only. More changes may follow, as we match or adapt our efforts to similar actions off post.
Would we consider implementing the Red, White and Blue shopping schedules again? Some have asked why we haven’t gone back to a higher health protection condition, such as HPCON Charlie.
That answer is simple. We are not where we were when the pandemic began. I’d like to believe we will avoid the same conditions that drove us to HPCON C and separate the community’s interaction in such a significant manner.
We know more about this virus. We used our experience to improve our mitigation measures. We have put up lots of Plexiglas protectors around our installations – protection that is making a difference. We have stored enough hand sanitizer to ensure we can keep our hand-sanitizing stations filled. If we get a positive case within the garrison team or our on-post services, there are now contingency plans to ensure operations remain open. We have the resources, protective measures and mindset.
These steps should allow us to endure a second, third, fourth… wave without a significant impact to our mission and services.
Even with incidence rates increasing around us, we are continuing our mission and in some cases, expanding services. In our child development centers, we are preparing to open up some long awaited spaces for childcare. We’re also looking to increase critical services, like the Galaxy bowling center’s eatery, delivered to those families quarantining in the hotel.
COVID-19 once dictated what we were allowed to do – now we recognize it as a part of our environment, something we must live with. It unquestionably impacts how we do things. The virus gets a vote. But, we determine how much that vote impacts our day-to-day lives.
I realize you are probably tired of hearing this. You are probably tired of adhering to 10 extra mitigation steps when you buy groceries. I am too; however, we have to continue to minimize unnecessary contact with those outside of your bubble.
It can’t be said enough … wash hands, wear masks, and maintain distance.
It will be even more difficult, with the holidays approaching. We all want to gather with loved ones around a table or fire and share a meal and our holiday traditions. But we’re not done yet. Until we can eliminate this invisible adversary, we must work together to keep our family, friends and our community safe.
Every day I see the hard work and effort that goes into fighting the virus. I’m proud of these efforts. Not a week goes by that I don’t catch myself saying, with all honesty, “I’m glad I live here.”