Local news translated, April 26

Local (German) COVID-19 News

Translation courtesy of the USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Team
April 27, 2020

On April 26, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, published a story about USAG Stuttgart, describing how our community is fighting the virus.

Article by Juergen Bock

In Baden-Württemberg, as of Monday, wearing masks is mandatory when shopping and when on public transport.

At U.S. Army locations, however, the protective measures are much stricter.

Panzer Kaserne, Böblingen – No supermarket entrance has ever been better guarded. Anyone wanting to enter the large shopping center on the grounds of Böblingen’s, Panzer Kaserne must withstand the critical gaze of elite soldier Justin Nyce.

The U.S. Marine stands in uniform at the entrance and checks whether customers are cleaning and disinfecting their hands at a mobile washing station. In addition, they have had to wear masks here for weeks, long before anything similar was implemented throughout Germany.

“There are no problems, and people are very respectful,” says Nyce, who spends five hours here doing a service that is unusual even for him – and salutes. He has recognized one of the hooded customers as an officer. The most important thing for many here is that the family is doing well at home. “Both countries do what they can,” says the Marine diplomatically when asked about the Corona situation in Germany and the USA.

At least one thing is certain: The statement applies one hundred percent to the five U.S. Army bases in Stuttgart and Böblingen. At the beginning of the crisis, there were quickly several dozen Corona cases; U.S. Army media reported that the Stuttgart garrison was the most affected location outside the USA.

The steps that followed were radical, and, went far beyond what was ordered throughout  Germany. “Our measures everywhere are at least those of the host country – and tougher,” says Garrison Spokesman Rick Scavetta.

Current figures are no longer mentioned, however, are only exchanged with the local authorities with whom the garrison is in close contact. The tough countermeasures are bearing fruit; “People understand,” Scavetta says, “it’s the only way we can win the fight against the virus.”

All are divided into three groups and this means that for the approximately 28,000 military and civilian employees and their families in the Stuttgart area, nothing is the same as before the crisis. In the Kelley Barracks in Möhringen, the Vaihinger Patch Barracks, the Robinson Barracks in Zuffenhausen, the Böblinger Panzerkaserne as well as at the Stuttgart Army Airfield in Echterdingen there are rules that would make manys German citizens shiver.

Certainly, schools, kindergartens and many other facilities are closed. Of course, distance rules and the requirement to travel with a maximum of one other person also apply here. Restaurants are closed, food trucks are set up as replacements. But that is not all. In offices, supermarkets and everywhere else where one could get too close, masks have been mandatory for a long time.

Army personnel are divided into three groups – blue, white and red like the star spangled banner, the flag of the USA. Alternating every day they are allowed to do certain things – for example, go shopping. For three days each group is on duty, then they have to wait ten days. An app and various Army media inform citizens about who is allowed to do what on which day. “People are very disciplined about this,” says Scavetta. No wonder with members of the Army. The general public would probably have more trouble with this.

On this day, it’s the red group’s turn. But on this day, they’re called “teams”. This is supposed to promote the idea of community and apparently it works. There are T-shirts and other souvenirs in each of the three colours. Only 35 people are allowed into the big supermarket at the same time. The customers stand in a long queues and shopping trolleys are freshly cleaned and made available for everyone.

Shops are disinfected several times a day. “We disinfect the store several times a day – everything that customers and employees could come into contact with,” says supermarket manager Thomas Angeli. For example, the laptops set up in the technical department. Every second checkout is closed so that there is enough space. “We can’t take any risks. We play the central supply role because many Americans who don’t speak German find it difficult to shop outside,” Angeli said.

The employees are also divided into teams that are not allowed to see each other. Michael Cook is part of Team 2. The young man with German-American parents is actually studying sports medicine and nutritional science on the base. Now he works in the supermarket and the exams take place online. “I have a grandma in Thuringia as well as grandparents and a great-grandma in Florida,” he says. The German grandmother is sad that the family is no longer allowed to visit her. And the relatives in Florida have to live with particularly strict rules because there are many older people there. “This is a tough situation for everyone,” says the student.

Only in a few areas does the garrison try to maintain a bit of normality. “Our training area is in operation. The soldiers must be ready,” says spokesman Scavetta. But even here there are strict rules. The many administrative staff at the sites work from home wherever possible. Anyone who wants to go to the site at all is asked about his or her state of health at the entrance and must know where to go in case of illness – namely to the clinic in the Patch Barracks, where there is also a test center that soldiers and families can drive thru by car.

Anyone who falls seriously ill is then transferred to a German hospital. Anyone showing symptoms is immediately put into quarantine – this also applies to those arriving at the bases from other countries. Many volunteers take care of them or sew masks free of charge. 

Speeches of the Garrison Commander are highly valued. The small team of Public Affairs has been increased and provides the members of the Army with information from Germany and the USA practically around the clock. And the Garrison Commander himself also keeps his personnel informed.

Every week, Colonel Jason W. Condrey speaks via livestream, often several times. Thousands watch, not only in the Stuttgart region. The video transmissions have reached a huge audience. There are even bingo cards circulating. If Condrey uses terms like “Covid-19”, “hand washing” or “social distancing” in his speeches, they can be marked on the cards. A little game to keep one’s spirits up during a crisis.

However, there are two things that many members of the Army particularly miss: the hairdresser and barber shop and the Vaihinger Corso cinema, which shows movies in English. At least there is hope for the barber shops at the locations – they will be allowed to reopen on May 4, subject to conditions. Any “fights” of who will be first in line is not to be expected – men like Justin Nyce ensure that discipline prevails.

The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart with its five locations is one of the most important facilities of the U.S, Army outside the United States.

The Vaihingen Patch Barracks are home to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), the Headquarters of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. The Kelley Barracks in Möhringen houses the Africa Command Africom.

The installations are mostly former barracks of the German Wehrmacht.

City wants to implement “Stricter conditions” for COVID demonstrations.

During the third demonstration against the corona restrictions in Stuttgart, the
applicable distance rules were not observed. Now the city wants to tighten the
regulations and look for a larger venue for the event.

The demonstration against the current corona regulations on Saturday at
the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart will have repercussions. Because the distance rules
were not observed by participants in many cases, therefore, the city wants to tighten
the regulations for further rallies of this kind and choose a larger square.

The previous times 30 to 40 people attended and a demonstration with up to 100 participants was again registered with the city of Stuttgart. For this number, the size of the Schlossplatz was considered sufficient, even if the distance rules were observed. However, many more people attended, than anticipated. In fact, according to the police, between 350 and 500 people attended, and, they often lacked distance.

Fitness studios want doors open as members are getting impatient

Böblingen: While the restrictions in many areas of life are gradually being
relaxed these days, the doors of the fitness studios remain closed.

Many operators feel left out. They stress that fitness training is more important than ever.

“Actually, we had hoped that we too would be allowed to open again on Monday,” says Marvin Fräßdorf.

His family runs the Fitness Express studios in Sindelfingen, Böblingen, Renningen and Vaihingen. He is convinced that this would have been possible.

“Our studios are all large enough to comply with the distance rules” he emphasizes.

Stern Center’s gradual opening returns normality to Sindelfingen shopping

In order for more normality, the shops in the Sindelfingen Stern-Center
have gradually reopened. According to the order of the Baden-Württemberg’s State
Government, the shops in the Stern-Center Sindelfingen are to reopen step by step,
taking all protective and hygienic measures into account.

The center management is asking customers to observe the prescribed contact rules
when entering the shopping centre and to visit the Stern-Center Sindelfingen
exclusively for the purpose of shopping.

Deutsche Bank states thousands cannot afford to pay off loans

The Corona crisis is leaving its mark on the private client business of Deutsche Bank.

According to the bank, tens of thousands of clients are asking for deferral of their loans because of the current pandemic.

“In the first two weeks after the law came into force, almost 50,000 customers asked us to defer their payment obligations arising from loans. In a good half of the cases, this involved mortgage financing, the other half were consumer loans” says Manfred Knof, head of the Private Client division of Germany’s largest financial institution.

The bank has already processed and approved most of the applications.

After lockdown – New start:

For one and a half months, the coronavirus had shut down the largest factory in the world. Now the VW headquarters in Wolfsburg is starting the Golf again.

The factory’s are now starting up very slowly and capacity in Wolfsburg is still limited. This week at a maximum of 15 percent, by the end of next week at around 40 percent which is about 8000 employees will have returned. Usually up to 70,000 people work here. 2600 suppliers have also resumed production.

Germany provides 750,000 euros in emergency aid for the homeless

“Stay home” is one of the commandments today to slow down the spread of the corona virus. How do you do that if you don’t have a home?

The Corona crisis hits the homeless particularly hard. They live on the streets, have no place to retreat, and often important protective measures such as washing their hands are a problem.

If they are accommodated in emergency shelters for a shorttime, they usually share the room with other people. Keeping their distance is difficult. In addition:
not all shelters are open 24 hours a day.

“The risk of infection with the coronavirus is particularly high for people living on the streets. With our emergency aid programme for the homeless, we are giving these people a safe retreat and protection in these times” said Health Minister Manne Lucha on Monday (27 April) in Stuttgart.