The Defense Department’s COVID-19 death toll jumped more than 18 percent this week, as five deaths brought the overall numbers to 32, according to data released Friday.
Two civilians, two contractors and a dependent died this week, the first deaths since late April.
While overall cases throughout the military and the department have slowed, the numbers continue to grow in the hundreds each week.
“A second wave is a possibility,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Today Show on Friday. “I don’t think the coronavirus is going away any time soon ― at least not until we have a vaccine or cure.”
For now, the DoD curve has mostly flattened, save for a steady stream of service member diagnoses as an asymptomatic testing plan continues.
As of Friday, 5,959 troops have been diagnosed, 161 of whom have been hospitalized, with 3,103 recoveries and two deaths. That brings the infection rate among service members to almost 0.3 percent, as the nationwide rate has climbed to just under 0.5 percent.
Of those, 39 percent come from the Navy ― 2,330 so far ― after outbreaks on two ships prompted 100-percent crew testing. With 125 new cases since May 15, the service saw a 5-percent increase. That amounts to roughly
The Army is up to 1,295 cases, 123 of which were diagnosed in the past week, for a 10-percent increase.
The Marine Corps, so far, has had the second-highest infection rate, with 196 infections per 100,000 Marines. As of Friday that meant 517 total diagnoses, with 36 new cases this week, an increase of 7 percent.
The Air Force continues to have the least cases-per-capita, with about 106 per 100,000 airman in the active duty and Air Force Reserve. There have been 469 diagnoses so far, up 27 this week, a 6-percent increase.
The service’s comparatively low infection rate might have something to do with not only its operations, but its general locations. Being able to spread out personnel on flight lines, with large bases in more remote locations, might have offered an advantage, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times on Tuesday.
“If you look at what we know about the virus and what we know works in terms of [preventing] transmission, we know physical distancing works, we know masks work, we know proper hygiene protocol works,” as well as isolating people who start to display symptoms, Goldfein said. “If you follow those four protocols, then you’re going to be very successful.”
As cases have gone up, the military’s death rate as continued to drop, as the last service member to die of COVID-19 was an aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt chief in mid-April. The rate is now around 0.003 percent.
Dod-wide the mortality rate is now more than 0.3 percent of 8,950 cases so far.
Of those, 1,411 have been civilians. Cases in that group grew by 70 this week, or 5 percent. Of those, 132 have been hospitalized, 754 have recovered and 16 have died.
Dependents have made up 1,029 of the overall cases, adding 35, an increase of about 4 percent. Of those, 46 have been hospitalized, 582 have recovered and five have died.
Contractors have had the highest death rate so far, 1.6 percent. So far 551 have been diagnosed, inlcuding 38 this week, an increase of 7 percent. Of those, 61 have been hospitalized, 272 have recovered and nine have died.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.