The Defense Department’s total overall COVID-19 cases hit 5,088 on Wednesday, continuing an upward trend of hundreds of cases as day a Pentagon leadership continues to try to stem the spread of coronavirus in the force. More than 300 troops, civilians, dependents and contractors were diagnosed between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Of those cases, more than half are in service members, as an 8-percent bump from Tuesday brings the total to just over 2,800. Of those 85 are currently hospitalized and 446 have recovered.
“Our desire, our aspiration is to expand testing, especially for groups that are probably going to be in tighter quarters,” Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Military Times on Tuesday, including submarine and Air Force bomber crews, as well as basic trainees.
With hundreds of asymptomatic coronavirus cases in the military, more thorough testing will be critical to decisions about reducing restrictions on movement and gathering.
Troops’ infection rate now stands at 1,338-per-million, or 0.1 percent, versus the overall U.S. rate of 1,770-per-million, or close to 0.2 percent.
When civilians, dependents and contractors are included, DoD’s infection rate is on par with the general U.S. population. With 17 deaths so far, including an eighth civilian on since Tuesday, DoD’s death rate is 0.3 percent, compared to 4 percent in the general U.S. population.
Currently, DoD can analyze about 9,000 swabs a day, but the logistics of moving samples from around the world to the closest lab has proven complicated.
After an outbreak on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt, it has taken over a week to get all 4,800 sailors tested, as samples taken pierside in Guam had to be flown to Korea and Japan for analysis. As of Wednesday, according to Navy data, 94 percent of the crew had been tested and 615 had come back positive.
Of those sailors, five are hospitalized for COVID-19 complications, including one in intensive care. One TR sailor died Monday.
According to those numbers, the Navy added only one case between Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing their total to 951. The Army’s cases rose by 123, to 719, while the Air Force reports 299, the Marine Corps 219 and the National Guard 546.
Though the number of troops testing positive has continued to swell by 100 to 200 daily, Tuesday showed a lull in new cases for the other demographics the Pentagon tracks.
The civilian numbers rose by 16, or 2 percent, to 699; dependents stayed flat, at 558; and contractors rose by just three, to 298 or 1 percent. Of those populations, 63 civilians, 24 dependents and 34 contractors are hospitalized, while 127, 128 and 37 have recovered, respectively.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.