Four people affiliated with the Defense Department have died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, according to the Pentagon’s latest count, including a service member, a civilian, a dependent and a contractor, as the DoD’s infection rate continues to outpace the U.S. population in general.
A German civilian based at Kaiserslautern died Saturday, according to an Army release, three days after getting tested for COVID-19.
“While he dedicated more than 30 years of his life in service to the U.S. Government, he was so much more ― a husband and friend to many in the community," Helmut Haife, the general manager of Theater Logistics Support Center Europe, said in a release. "We mourn that we will no longer be able to share in his spirit for life.”
The service member, New Jersey National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, died Monday.
“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a release.
The deaths bring the DoD’s rate to .3 percent, out of 1,259 total cases, still well below the 1.7 percent rate across the U.S. The rate of infected troops , however, jumped to 517-per-million, further outpacing the U.S. population, which was at 438-per-million Tuesday morning, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite the military’s generally young and healthy population, service members have proven to be just as at risk as any other American, despite early statements from officials that those attributes put them at lower risk.
"What we’re trying very hard to do is not scare people by saying everybody is at risk, because that’s not true,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, told reporters March 4, echoing the CDC’s guidance at the time. “It’s just not true.”
What has proven true is that though they are contracting coronavirus at a higher rate than most Americans, the vast majority have not required hospitalization. Less than 5 percent of troops have been hospitalized and 6 percent of all cases have recovered so far.
While the Pentagon will continue to release a daily morning update of its cases and response efforts, DoD has ordered installations and combatant commands to cease publicly releasing their local numbers, instead deferring to each military service to keep a running tally.
“Base commanders are instructed to continue to work with local community health officials to share information on base community cases,” press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement Monday.
The move follows up on concerns raised last week, that local reporting of cases could give adversaries a tip on hard-hit units around the world.
“Unit-level readiness data for key military forces is information that is classified as a risk to operational security and could jeopardize operations and/or deterrence," Farah told Military Times on Thursday.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT