Pentagon monitoring 2,600 military personnel in Europe for possible coronavirus exposure

Pentagon monitoring 2,600 military personnel in Europe for possible coronavirus exposure

The top U.S. commander in Europe said Friday that 2,600 military personnel on the continent were “of concern” for possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters that not all the individuals were in isolation, but the Pentagon later clarified that they are “in self-isolation as a precaution due to travel or other reasons."

“These individuals are not necessarily sick, but may have been exposed and are doing their due diligence following health preventative measures,” according to the statement.

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The 2,600 individuals include “those who may have been tested, but not positive.”

The statement did not go into detail about how the individuals were being isolated.

The Pentagon did immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wolters said that 35 of the 72,000 U.S. forces in Europe have tested positive for the illness known as COVID-19.

The Pentagon has labored to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within its ranks, especially with forces in high-risk countries like Italy, which had the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world as of this week.

The 35 U.S. military cases in Europe account for more than half of the 67 service members who have the virus globally. There are now 124 military-related coronavirus cases, including 15 Defense Department civilians, 26 dependents and 16 contractors.

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Wolters said he has spoken by phone and video conference with those who have tested positive for coronavirus, as well as those who "fall into the category of concern.”

“Those who have tested positive and those who are in quarantine are in good shape,” Wolters told reporters on a call from command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. 

"My biggest challenge for those that have been quarantined for 14 days, as you can well imagine, is making sure that they understand that they, by golly, will adhere to the tactics, techniques and procedures and the rules and regulations that we've put out.”

Wolters also said he has canceled several readiness exercises, scaled back by 60 percent of the continent’s largest multinational war game Defender-Europe 20, and regularly speaks to NATO partners as the situation unfolds.

“U.S. European Command, together with all our NATO allies and partners, is combating the coronavirus with extreme intensity,” he said.