- At least 280 U.S. troops are infected with COVID-19.
- There is a cluster of at least 58 cases among the military community in Stuttgart, Germany.
- Access has been restricted to hundreds of bases.
The U.S. Army is restricting access to hundreds of bases worldwide and the military at large is putting further controls on servicemembers and their families in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 among the country’s armed forces.
Just like states and countries but on a smaller scale, the number of cases in the U.S. military worldwide goes up daily as cases are diagnosed on bases, ships, at the Pentagon and among family members and civilian employees.
There were at least 321 coronavirus cases among people associated with the U.S. military as of Tuesday, according to Stars and Stripes. About 280 of those were among the nation’s 1.4 million active duty servicemembers, the Associated Press reported. A week ago, that number stood at 51.
“Our curve is not flattening,” Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the top doctor on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday.
The Army has limited base access worldwide to “essential personnel” only, which in general means only those with a military identification card or conducting official business on base. The other services have varying degrees of restrictions and alert levels, and have reduced staffing at many locations.
Families and troops planning to move or travel to other bases for training, meanwhile, remain in limbo with a ban on any military-funded travel.
Bases in overseas locations like Germany, South Korea and Italy are essentially on lockdown. A cluster of at least 58 cases among troops and families stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, is especially alarming to military families who live and work in the tight-knit American neighborhoods on and around the bases.
A drive-thru testing location has been set up on base, and services that families rely on, like the on-base post offices and banks, are cutting back hours.
Kymberlee Gilkey, an American who’s lived in Stuttgart for more than three years, said she is generally upbeat but described the mood on the base as “somber.” Usually, food shopping at the on-base commissary is a social occasion, with friends greeting each other with hugs and handshakes.
“I went the other day to hit the commissary and left feeling very out of sorts,” Gilkey told weather.com in an email Thursday. “It was busy but no one was smiling and everyone was staying their distance from one another.”
George Williams, another spouse who lives farther to the south in Garmisch, Germany, echoed those sentiments. Like many in the U.S. right now, Williams spends her day helping her three kids, who are in grades 2, 4 and 6, with their online schooling, with the added challenge of being in a foreign country.
“Daily, so much has changed for me and the children,” Williams told weather.com. “The only opportunity the kids and I have to get out is in our yard or walks around our neighborhood. The city is locked down with high fines for violators.”
Unlike larger bases that have their own medical care, Garmisch does not.
“I am worried of how things would go down if one of us got sick,” Williams said. “Foreign hospital care where language barriers and bedside manner are so different does scare me. The thought of that keeps me sanitizing, praying and doing my best to keep healthy food in my family at all times.”
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