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The Kaiserslautern area was raised to Germany’s second-highest level of health alert last week after a sudden spike in coronavirus cases that pinned some to members of the large US military community, officials said.
The alert status was raised to orange on Friday after the number of cases in the area doubled last week, with 59 new infections reported from Wednesday to Thursday. Two days earlier, a total of 54 cases were reported in the area.
A German official told Stars and Stripes, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, that the US military community, which makes up about half of the area’s population, was being watched as a hotspot for the wave. infection.
But Kaiserslautern district administrator Ralf Lessmeister said the sharp increase in numbers was due to delays in reporting of cases by US military officials, who have submitted multiple new case reports to German public health authorities, spanning more than two weeks.
Only a fraction of the infections occurred in the past seven days, the time period used to calculate the alert level of a city or region, Lessmeister said.
Both the US Air Force and the US Army have bases in the area, but they report coronavirus case numbers separately to German public health officials, said Lt. Col. Will Powell, head of public affairs for Air Wing 86 at Ramstein Air Base.
“We have recently experienced an increase in COVID cases in the Air Force community, which corresponds to the increase in COVID cases across Germany and Europe,” he said in a statement emailed to Stars and Stripes.
“Most of our recent cases have occurred locally or from travel in Europe. There are no ‘hotspots’ on the base or within the Air Force community, but we continue to emphasize the importance of following host country restrictions and practicing proper hygiene, “he said, adding that the steps the Air Force has taken to combat the spread of the virus, include quarantines, more stringent than those imposed by state officials in Rheinland-Pfalz.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute’s public health agency listed the Kaiserslautern district as a red Sunday, but Lessmeister said it was done by mistake and the number of cases in the region remains “well below” the 50 per 100,000 population limit at which the health warning rating is raised. to the highest level.
About 107,000 people live in the Kaiserslautern area, including about 50,000 Americans, he said. As of Saturday, there were 102 infections in the area, including eight new cases, according to data he posted on Facebook. Six people, including two members of the US military community, were released from quarantine, data showed.
Gino Mattorano, spokesman for the European Regional Health Command, said the military was doing its best to provide timely information, but due to a number of factors, which he did not explain, there could be delays in reporting.
“We will continue to work to improve the reporting process to minimize delays and provide the most comprehensive and accurate information to our host country partners,” he said. “We value and appreciate the excellent relationship we have with the Kaiserslautern community.”
Officials on Friday stepped up measures to try to contain the spread of the virus, particularly in Landstuhl and Ramstein-Miesenbach, which district officials said were “the two cities hardest hit” by the spike in cases. Both are near Ramstein Air Base.
“There will be a lot more control by the regulatory authorities, especially at the weekend,” they said in a statement released late Friday.
“The catering sector is strongly advised to comply with the applicable provisions for running a restaurant – hygiene regulations, distance rules, contact tracing.”
The increase in the number of cases “can largely be traced back to clearly defined ‘infectious events’ in the catering and family celebrations sector … particularly in Landstuhl and Ramstein-Miesenbach,” the statement said.
The US military police and German law enforcement are expected to increase patrols in the area to ensure people comply with social distancing and other precautionary rules.
“We will check to see if people are wearing their masks and keep their distance,” said Bernhard Christian Erfort, a spokesman for the Kaiserslautern police.
New cases have risen sharply in the past week across Germany, with the country’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reporting 3,483 new cases on Sunday compared with the previous day.
The hardest-hit cities in southwestern Germany, where most US bases are located, are Frankfurt and Esslingen, which have been labeled as “extreme risk” areas for the coronavirus.
US Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz warned against traveling to Frankfurt in a message posted on Facebook.
“FRANKFURT is now RED (High Risk for COVID infection), according to the RKI,” he said, referring to the Robert Koch Institute.
“Your plan should not cover the Frankfurt metro area,” said the Facebook message.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday after meeting the mayors of Germany’s 11 largest cities that tougher measures against the virus would come into effect immediately if more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents were reported in an area during the week. Frankfurt has already outnumbered those cases, according to Deutsche Welle.
Other measures that could be put in place to prevent a second wave of the virus in Germany include curfews, restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and restrictions on public and private gatherings.