The spike in military COVID-19 deaths is continuing to subside, for the second week in a row, with only one death reported between Oct. 20 and 27.
Spc. Damion Francis, 32, who was assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit at Fort Carson, Colorado, is the 71st service member to die of COVID-19, none of whom have been fully vaccinated. Francis was partially vaccinated, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
“With the increase in vaccination rates across the force, we are hopeful that these tragedies will come to an end soon,” Maj. Charlie Dietz told Military Times on Oct. 20.
The most recent weekly report also included fewer than 1,000 new cases ― 993, to be exact, bringing the overall total to 249,858 ― only the second time that has happened since new cases began to surge around the country in August.
During that period, weekly highs topped out at upwards of 4,000 new cases, as the COVID-19 delta variant surged around most of the country.
A general drop in new nationwide COVID-19 cases also coincides with the military’s push toward 100-percent vaccination. As of Wednesday, 97 percent of the active-duty force has had at least one of a two-dose vaccine regimen, while 87 percent is fully vaccinated.
Including the Reserve and National Guard, 82 percent are at least partially vaccinated and 68 percent are fully vaccinated, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Military Times.
Deadlines are fast approaching for all service members to get vaccinated or apply for a waiver. Active-duty airmen and guardians must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2, and their last chance to get a shot was Oct. 19. Reserve and Air National Guard members have until Dec. 2 to be fully vaccinated.
As of Monday, just under 97 percent of the active-duty Air Force and Space Force was at least partially vaccinated, with just under 94 percent of its reservists at least partially vaccinated.
The Navy and Marine Corps deadlines come next, with Nov. 28 for active-duty and Dec. 28 for reservists. The Navy announced on Wednesday that 95 percent of active-duty sailors are fully vaccinated, with another 4 percent partially. In the Reserve, the split is 91 percent fully and another 5 percent partially.
In the Marine Corps, 79 percent of the total force is fully vaccinated, with another 10 percent partially.
The Army has given its troops the longest lead time, with a Dec. 15 deadline for active-duty and June 30 for reservists. As of Wednesday, 50 percent of the total Army is fully vaccinated, with another 19 percent having taken the first of a two-dose regimen.
The Army, particularly its reserve components, has seen a disproportionate number of deaths from COVID-19 complications. Thirty-seven soldiers have died of COVID-19, 52 percent of the military’s overall death toll, though the Army makes up 44 percent of all service members.
Army reservists have been hit even harder. Despite making up roughly 20 percent of the military, Army Reserve and Guardsmen have made up 31 percent of deaths.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.