Since Veterans Affairs leaders reported the first death of a VA patient from coronavirus in mid-March, the number of positive cases — and fatalities — in the department’s health system has risen dramatically.

As of April 1, 53 patients have died from the illness, the majority of them in the last week and a 29 percent increase from the previous day’s total of 41. There were 1,602 patients in VA care who have tested positive for the fast-spreading virus as of April 1. That figure has risen more than 1,200 cases in a week and represents a 19 percent increase from the previous day’s total of 1,347.

New York City and New Orleans alone account for more than half of the total deaths, and about 28 percent of the total VA coronavirus case count.

VA officials have offered only partial details of the deaths, but so far all of the deaths have been among patients aged 50 or older.

Based on information released by department health officials, here are the VA medical centers currently dealing with coronavirus cases:

VA officials announced on Wednesday have added more than 4,000 ICU and medical/surgical beds across in the nation in recent weeks in anticipation of increased need.

They have also said any veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should contact their local VA facility before visiting to determine their next steps.

In a statement, department leaders have promised “an aggressive public health response to protect and care for veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk.”

That includes work with the CDC and the possibility of accepting some non-veteran patients at VA medical centers to provide relief to overtaxed local health care systems. On Wednesday, the department announced it would accept 20 non-veteran patients at its medical facility in East Orange, N.J., as part of that responsibility, but pledged it would not negatively impact veterans access to care.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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