US general meets with German officials over resort outbreak

BERLIN — (AP) — The general commanding American troops in Bavaria met Wednesday with local officials in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to reassure them of the U.S. military's commitment to preventing the spread of COVID-19, after an outbreak at a troop hotel sickened dozens.

A total of 59 people in the town, including 25 staff at the U.S. military-run Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, tested positive for the new coronavirus after a 26-year-old American woman working at the hotel allegedly flouted quarantine rules by visiting several bars last week.

On Wednesday, German authorities said that further testing had found no additional cases, though they encouraged anybody who had frequented the affected bars and not yet been tested to come forward.

“While there is still much work ahead, we are encouraged by the results returned from yesterday and today’s testing,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Norrie said in a statement after his visit.

Norrie noted that after learning of the outbreak on Friday, the U.S. military had deployed four helicopters to Garmisch-Partenkirchen carrying additional medical personnel and testing kits.

Employees who had close contact with positive staff members were placed in quarantine and the hotel was closed for two weeks, he added.

“We are extremely grateful for Bavaria’s proactive response to keep our communities as safe as possible from this virus,” Norrie said. “We are part of this effort alongside our Bavarian hosts and friends, to act responsibly to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.”

Norrie said his command — which includes about 51,000 soldiers, civilian employees and family members at seven locations in Bavaria — would ensure that community members who don't adhere to orders, including local ordinances, would be held to account.

U.S. Army personnel, including civilians and family members, are banned from visiting establishments that function exclusively as bars and nightclubs, he said.

“We know that environments that are close, crowded and confined are conducive to the spread of the virus," Norrie said.

He added that while it may not be possible to find out how the virus entered the community, “we all bear individual and collective responsibility in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and I’m confident our community overall will continue to be a positive contributor to this fight.”

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