Opening to a new normal

By Col. Jason Condrey Commander
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Commander on AFN
Col. Jason Condrey and Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia talk with Sgt. Alexis Gonzales on the American Forces Network’s morning radio show. Photo by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

As we turned our calendars to June, we watched a drastic drop in coronavirus infections in our local area. That led to the garrison reducing the health protection condition from Charlie to Bravo.

This was made possible through the efforts of our military community and the efforts of people in the greater Stuttgart area. With an understanding of the coronavirus we took steps to mitigate its spread.

It wasn’t easy. Extra handwashing, maintaining six feet of distance from each other and wearing a mask when keeping our distance can’t be guaranteed. We are now seeing the results of that effort.

That said, COVID-19 is still nearby. Cases still pop-up. Every day, Baden-Württemberg reports new cases and new deaths from the virus. It reminds us, we are not done with this yet.

We now look to re-opening services within U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart to a new normal.

As our German partners ease their restrictions off post, we can begin to re-open some of the services and reinstate activities that have been shut down for the past three months.

Conditions will continue to change, as we assess the virus and learn more about its transmission. A local university study is now looking at the risk children face, focusing on the number of cases for those that interact outside their homes vs those that do not. Local authorities will likely base their decision on opening children’s activities based on the outcome of this research.

On and off post, children will have access to playgrounds. That means we must make sure they wash their hands both before and after playground use. We’ve also opened our child development centers. For the past two weeks, we set new procedures in place and trained staff to prepare for children returning. For parents, these new measures will look and feel different.

We are determined to make sure children of our working parents are as a safe as possible. In the coming weeks, we hope to increase our capacity, in part by hiring more care providers and continuing our assessment to find ways to expand our childcare services.

We’ve also reopened our fitness centers. We’re following our public health guidance and our host nation guidelines. Extra cleaning and sanitizing is required. Like childcare, it’s not going to look like it was before. Each gym will allow only a certain number of people inside each room. We must prioritize service members’ physical readiness, but still offer time to our civilian workforce and family members. We can’t yet open 24-hour access.

Other signs of our new normal are emerging. Now, you can sit down to eat at our food courts and on-post eateries. You can hear the crash of pins falling at our bowling alley. With school out, many children’s summer activities will become available.

We need to know who you are and when you take part in on-post activities. If COVID-19 resurfaces, our trace team needs to quickly reach out, to isolate the spread.

This month, as we celebrate the Army’s 245th birthday, I’d like to point out that we didn’t let an adversary stop us from doing our jobs and leading our lives. Like our training prepares us, we adapt and overcome.

I appreciate all that this community has done, as we have fought this virus together. As we expand services, I look forward to your feedback. Remember, every day is COVID day, until it’s not. Wash your hands, mask up, maintain six feet of distance, stay vigilant and stay healthy.