Local news translated – Jan. 23, 2023

Graphic by U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

Host Nation Update, Jan. 23, 2023

COVID – situation in Baden-Württemberg

“With a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the state of endemic has been achieved”

The last COVID requirements will fall in Baden-Württemberg next week. Health Minister Manne Lucha believes the state is well prepared for variants of the virus and other risks: “We are clearly better prepared for a possible next pandemic.”

While he does not expect any new worrying variants, the citizens are vigilant. “On the subject of “pandemic developments” we are so attentive, we listen around the clock to see if there are any changes,” the minister continued. However, he also stressed, “We are no longer driven.”   The country is in a transition from pandemic to endemic with the COVID situation. “We have now with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, achieved the state of endemic.” Lucha said. But he is not giving the all-clear: “The all-clear in the sense of ‘it’s no longer our concern’ would be the wrong signal,” he said. “When it comes to health issues, I would never check anything off.” People should continue to be mindful in their private health hygiene, he said. The pandemic showed that mindfulness in dealing with the disease and infections is a high priority, he said.  Hospitals and intensive care units in Germany are also giving a positive signal: “Since the beginning of January, the number of COVID 19 patients requiring treatment in intensive care units has fallen from around 1,500 to less than 800 today – in other words, almost halved,” Gernot Marx, vice president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi).  In addition, the number of daily new admissions is steadily decreasing, Marx said: “COVID is no longer a problem at intensive care units and many postponed scheduled operations from December can be made up for,” the Divi deputy chief added. According to the German Hospital Association, occupancy is also decreasing in normal wards. “We are seeing significantly declining occupancy rates among Corona-positive patients. With the waning of the flu epidemic, relief is also expected here,” Chairman of the Board Gerald Gaß told RND: “Above all, however, the number of sick employees is falling, so that the staffing situation is slowly improving.”

A disease is called endemic if it occurs repeatedly in a region in some accumulation. This applies to many infections that occur in seasonal waves, for example influenza. With regard to COVID, it means that waves of infections flatten out compared to the pandemic phase, and for a large part of the population, the effects are less severe because there is widespread immunity through vaccination or surviving infections. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Jan 23)

COVID rules in public transport – What will apply in Baden-Württemberg?

In Baden-Württemberg, the mask requirement will drop in buses, streetcars and local trains at the end of this month on January 31, which is the last day that the current COVID rules still apply. Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria were the first ones to drop it. Other federal states have followed suit.  Most of the remaining federal states will not follow suit until February 2, the same day on which the requirement to wear a mask on long-distance rail services will be abolished two months earlier than originally planned.

In theory, therefore, people in the southwest would still have to put on their masks for one day at the beginning of February when changing from the S-Bahn to the ICE.

The SSB and the S-Bahn in the Stuttgart region will also implement this – just as the transport companies have followed the political guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic.  In practice, the deadline should not change that much. After all, those who were already not wearing a mask no longer did not have to fear any consequences, even though theoretically a fine between 70 and 250 euros could still be due by the end of January. And those who want to protect themselves personally will continue to keep their masks on during the winter period. “The police has not controlled that requirements. We were only active when there were conflicts,” says a spokeswoman for the state police department. Punishing refusal to wear a mask is in fact not the task and authority of the transport companies. “We informed our passengers about the applicable rules,” says a spokeswoman for Stuttgart’s SSB streetcars. There was also no explicit order to the ticket inspectors to point out missing masks. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Jan 23)

Mask obligation for employees in medical practices will drop

Starting in February, employees in doctors’ offices and other outpatient medical facilities in Baden-Württemberg will no longer have to wear masks. The respective relaxation is part of the planned COVID regulation, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Health on Friday. For patients and visitors, however, the mask requirement will continue to apply until April 7, according to the current status.  This means that from February on, all COVID regulations that the state can enact will be lifted. Further requirements such as the mask obligation in hospitals and nursing facilities or the regulation for patients and visitors of medical practices will be decided by the federal government as well as the testing obligations in clinics, as well as senior people’s homes.

“During the current transitioning from pandemic to endemic – there is no reason for a continuation of the mask obligations in regards to the COVID Regulations directed to  the population; In this respect, the transition to the use of masks as personal responsibility is possible.” It is currently sufficient to recommend wearing the mouth-to-nose protection primarily in indoor areas accessible to the public and in mass transit.

The federal COVID rules are still in effect until April 7. Among other things, they require passengers on long-distance trains and buses to wear a mask. The rules for local transport are issued by the states. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Jan 23)

Weapons ban zone in Stuttgart – The rules explained via Podcast

There has been a lot of talk about the weapons ban zone in the city starting Feb 1.  Most of the talk has been about the young people in whose living environment the measure is supposed to provide more safety, when partying in the city center on weekends. The Mobile Youth Work Stuttgart of the Evangelical Society (Eva), as well as “Caritas” presented the campaign called “Together without weapons”. There’s been a podcast introduced, which informs about the current situation in the Stuttgart’s city center. In the menu item “Weapons ban zone”, a speaker summarizes everything worth knowing in 32 seconds; for example that knives with a detectable blade of more than four centimeters are prohibited, and that if you have these, or other prohibited weapons, you will have to pay a fine if the police find it during a check.

The spoken information, which you can listen to on your smartphone while you’re on the go, is also helpful because the city deliberately avoids putting up signs designating the no-weapons zone. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Jan