US, European military commanders possibly exposed to virus

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Land Force Commanders from allied NATO and partner nations with Poland’s General Jaroslaw Mika, center, met to discuss the execution of DEFENDER-Europe 20 during a conference held at the Headquarters of the U.S. Army in Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany, March 6, 2020. The commander of Poland’s armed forces, General Jaroslaw Mika, was diagnosed with the new coronavirus as he returned home, the Polish Defense Ministry said. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (U.S. Army Europe/Stephen Perez via AP)

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BERLIN (AP) — At least two top European military commanders tested positive for the new coronavirus after a conference on an American military base in Germany, and the commander of U.S. Army Europe has isolated himself in case he also was exposed, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli and several staff members from the U.S. garrison in the German city of Wiesbaden went into self-isolation “out of an abundance of caution and following recommended protocols,” U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Monday.

The possible exposure occurred at a meeting Friday at a land forces commander’s conference that U.S. Army Europe hosted in Wiesbaden, spokesman John Tomassi confirmed Tuesday.

Tomassi would not say who was thought to have been carrying the virus at the time of the conference, but two participants have since said they tested positive for it.

The infection was commander of Poland’s armed forces, Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, was found infected once he returned home, the Polish Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said Mika, 57, feels well and that everyone with him on the trip to Wiesbaden has been quarantined.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, though for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild COVID-19 disease recover in about two weeks and those with more severe illnesses may take three to six weeks to recover, but the vast majority of patients will recover.

Italy’s RAI television quoted Italian army Chief of Staff General Salvatore Farina saying he also was “fine” after testing positive for the virus upon his return from the conference.

“I am in isolation in my apartment, in compliance with the directives issued by the government authorities and with the health protocols,” Farina said.

He said authorities were looking to identify people with whom he had contact in the past few days.

The coronavirus outbreak was not an agenda item of the annual gathering in Germany, but it came up in the context of how to protect the thousands of Americans and other troops gathering in Europe for the Defender Europe 20 exercise, Tomassi said.

“Right now, there’s no impact to Defender 20 that we have determined,” he said. “But that could change any day, and we’re monitoring and continuing to evaluate the situation.”

The U.S. Army Europe-hosted conference in Wiesbaden brought together 24 senior military representatives from NATO, the European Union, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Romania and the United States.

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Monika Scislowska in Poland, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this story.

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