Community leaders talk about coping with COVID-19

weekly telephone conversations
Col Condrey listens intently to Böblingen Lord Mayor Dr. Stefan Belz during one of their weekly telephone conversations. Photo by Paul Hughes, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Story by Angelika Aguilar and Rachele Pezzuti, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

On a weekly basis, the Lord Mayor of Böblingen, Dr. Stefan Belz and the USAG Stuttgart Garrison Commander, Col. Jason Condrey talk about issues and concerns they are facing with their respective communities. During a recent telephone conversation between the two community leaders, members of the Garrison Public Affairs Office were able to listen in and share the conversation with the Stuttgart Military Community.

“Hello Stefan,” “hallo Jason,” “wie geht es Dir? How are you and the family doing?”

Belz happily mentions to Condrey that many shops were able to reopen in the City of Böblingen, and that he personally went to greet the shop owners and watched them carefully observing the rules of hygiene and distancing of their customers.

“Do you see any problems with it?” asks Condrey – “Absolutely not, as the shop owners will do everything to comply and don’t want their shops to be closed again,” responds Belz. “Local shop owners have suffered a decrease of 50 to 70 per cent of their regular income during the past few weeks.”

When asked by Condrey how the shop owners implemented the security measures in their stores, Belz states the following actions were adopted: “Washing of hands often, installing Plexiglas panels at checkout counters for the protection of the workers and the customers and observing the authorized maximum number of people allowed in the store at one time and assuring the distance of at least 1.5 meters.”

“The Garrison has also installed Plexiglass panels anywhere employees come in contact with customers, as well as the portable hand washing stations in front of many buildings.” Condrey replies and adds, “The garrison has already implemented the requirement to wear masks in facilities where maintaining six-foot distance from others is difficult.”

“Social distancing remains without a doubt a priority states Belz who then adds, “The citizens are aware of the mandatory use of face masks.”

Both leaders share stories of people within their respective communities making masks and having the masks available for free at high use locations.

It did not take long for the conversation to shift to the more serious aspect of coping with the Corona Virus and that is the medical capabilities available and the number of positive cases in their communities.

“Jason, the city of Böblingen is monitoring the capacity of its intensive care beds in our hospitals,” says Belz, and rest reassured, they have enough capacity and medical equipment. Böblingen’s infection rate has decreased and the number of recovered people has increased. Of the 144 infected people at this time, 115 have already recovered. Unfortunately, three deaths have been reported.”

“Sorry to hear of your losses, hopefully your recovered number continues to increase,” comments Condrey. “So far, 90 percent of the infected people in the USAG Stuttgart community have fully recovered and currently there are no new infections.”

The topic shifts back to the opening of small shops and the desire by both communities to have more loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. One concern both gentlemen share is the possible reopening of child care centers and the school systems.

“It is a difficult matter [opening the schools], since we can’t assure the implementation of proper distance rules with kids,” comments Condrey. “School and child care closures have affected a large segment of our workforce, with many parents unable to work because they are supervising virtual education or caring for a small child.”

Belz echoes Condrey’s concern in implementing physical distancing with children and that school closures have affected his staff as well, and adds. “Only German students whose final exams will take place within the next few weeks can return to school.  However, it is yet not clear when or how the kindergarten will reopen.”

Both leaders emphasize the fact that the situation is still very fragile, as both communities continue to fight an “invisible enemy” and both hope people don’t get too complacent, and continue to observe closely the posted COVID-19 measures both inside and outside the fence-line.