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Defense Department COVID-19 death toll rises to 7

A fifth Defense Department contractor has died after contracting coronavirus, according to a daily case update from the Pentagon.

The department’s overall COVID-19 deaths now stand at 7, a 0.3-percent rate, versus the current overall U.S. rate of 2.5 percent.

Of 1,521 service members who have tested positive, one has passed away, a 57-year-old New Jersey Army National Guardsman.

“I don’t think that the military population is going to be hugely different than an age-matched population,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, told Military Times.

Though adults of all ages have proven susceptible to coronavirus, the most serious cases and deaths have been concentrated in patients above 50. The DoD numbers bear that out, as only 4 percent of diagnosed service members are currently hospitalized.

The Pentagon has hesitated to make a projection as to how many service members will eventually contract coronavirus, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that ― worst case scenario ― half of the U.S.’s 327 million residents could become infected.

"The projections are proving not to be all that accurate,' Friedrichs said. “What we’re focusing on is, how do we minimize risk today?”

So far, troops — including active duty and reservists ― have been infected at a lower rate than the U.S. population. Currently, active duty and reserve component troops have been diagnosed at a rate of 724-per-million, with 1,395 active cases. The general U.S. rate stands at 1,112-per-million.

“We’ll know in a few months what the real transmission rate is and what the real infection rate is,” Friedrichs said.

Of 1,521 service members diagnosed, 127 have recovered; of 406 civilians, 31 have recovered; of 343 dependents, 33 have recovered; and of 179 contractors, 10 have recovered.

The Navy continues to be the hardest hit service, with 460 diagnoses as of Tuesday. Roughly 200 sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive as of Monday afternoon, defense officials told reporters.

The Army has reported 361 cases, the Air Force 322 and the Marine Corps 78. The National Guard Bureau has reported 314 soldiers and airmen have been diagnosed.

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