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GALENA–Laura Ebel, a 2011 Galena High School graduate and the daughter of Tom and Julie Staver has been living the past few months in the fairytale-like town of Heidelberg, Germany, with her husband Tobias.
Her first year in Germany was going smoothly, but as she read more about the coronavirus and impact in China, she became more concerned about what the impact would be on her new home. The Ebels purchased the essentials in preparation for what could become serious and waited and watched as the story unfolded.
Since the second week in March, Ebel has been able to work from home as it was a voluntary option for individuals in her company.
“Those who can work from home here will work from home and have been,” said Ebel.
The path towards social distancing is similar to what has occurred in the United States. Ebel said that restaurants and bars have closed in Heidelberg and only remain open for delivery and carry-out options.
Similar to what is occurring in Galena, residents of Heidelberg, including the Ebels, have been supporting local small businesses and buying meals from their favorite establishments.
Ebel said grocery stores have remained open and even the weekend food markets in Germany have been allowed to stay open.
However, Ebel said that toilet paper hasn’t been in as much demand in Germany as it has been in the United States. Ebel said at first there was some panic buying, but that it subsided pretty quickly.
“We have had no problem finding the essentials,” said Ebel.
Another similarity is that in Germany all the schools have gone virtual.
One of the biggest differences between social distancing regulations in the United States as compared to Germany is that Germany has restricted public gatherings to no more than two people unless those people live in the same household.
Ebel said that she and her husband still go for walks and hikes and that there are lots of people around doing similar activities.
Everyone has been cognizant keeping an appropriate distance and practicing social distancing., according to Ebel.
Ebel has noticed police driving around checking to make sure there aren’t large gatherings, but she said that it hasn’t been much of a problem in Heidelberg.
Some of these restrictions have likely contributed to Germany having a significantly lower mortality rate than its neighboring countries.
One of the strangest things for Ebel has been the closure of churches in Germany. She said the churches closed at the start of the pandemic to lessen the spread of the virus and the government did not have to step in to close places of worship.
“They took advice of the information that they were given,” said Ebel. “It is weird not being able to go to Mass on Easter.”
Ebel said that the German people began strictly obeying the social distancing orders following a message from Chancellor Angela Merkel who said that the coronavirus pandemic would be the most difficult problem for Germany since World War II. Ebel said that Merkel’s statement really made the virus a big deal for Germans.
“Everyone pretty much follows the rules here,” said Ebel. “Normally everyone is really social here.”
Heidelberg, along with other German communities, has given support to those from other countries in need.
Ebel said that the Heidelberg University hospital has taken in 12 patients from Italy to be treated at its facility.
Another of the unusual things that have occurred since the pandemic began is the closing of borders in Germany.
Ebel said that all of the international borders are closed which is odd for Europe since the countries typically have open borders. Ebel said it isn’t unusual for people in Heidelberg to travel a short distance by car to neighboring France, but now they are unable to with the borders being closed. Only workers and goods can go across the border at the present time.
Another concern for the Ebels is planning their wedding reception in the United States in May.
The Ebels were married last December and planned to celebrate with family and friends, but due to travel bans the couple is unsure how those restrictions will impact her husband or family traveling to the United States or her return to Germany following the celebration.
Although much is uncertain, the Ebels are continuing to enjoy their new life together in Germany even through a pandemic.