The Defense Department had one of its lowest increases in COVID-19 cases since early March this week, though it also saw its second consecutive week of deaths, according to data released Friday.
Following the Memorial Day weekend death of Sgt. Simon Zamudio, a 34-year-old Illinois-based Army reservist, a DoD civilian passed away Wednesday, bringing DoD’s toll to 36.
To date, 9,449 service members, civilians, dependents and contractors have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase this week of 6 percent. Of those, 428 have been hospitalized and 5,316 have recovered, with a mortality rate of 0.4 percent.
As deaths nationwide crossed 100,000 this week, the mortality rate among U.S. residents is holding steady at 6 percent.
“We may want to ask you to stick your arm out and donate blood,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday in a livestreamed senior leader town hall, as the department begins not only antibody testing, but a voluntary effort to transfer antibody-rich plasma from survivors to those hospitalized with serious COVID-19 complications.
So far, 6,278 service members are known to have contracted the virus, with 174 hospitalizations, 3,593 recoveries and three deaths ― an infection rate that has held steady at 0.3 percent, versus the known rate of 0.5 percent nationwide.
Cases were up this week by 5 percent overall, reflecting a downward trend in new cases even as the services continue to test asymptomatic troops in key units.
Once accounting for more than 40 percent of the military’s cases, the Navy’s share has dropped down to about 38 percent, with 2,396. That was an increase of 3 percent this week, the lowest rise among the services.
The Army, with over 150,000 more troops than the Navy, has reported 1,383, with a 7-percent rise this week. The Marine Corps and Air Force also saw 7-percent upticks, with the Marine Corps rising to 552 cases as the Air Force reported 504.
The National Guard, which has mobilized more than 40,000 of its soldiers and airmen for local pandemic response efforts, has diagnosed 1,219 troops with COVID-19, with an 8-percent rise in the past week.
Across DoD, cases were up 6 percent this week, for a total of 9,449.
Contractors saw a spike this week, up 11 percent for 613 total cases. Of those, 63 have been hospitalized, 293 have recovered and nine have died. Both civilians and dependents saw a 5-percent rise in cases ― up to 1,475 and 1,083, respectively.
Among civilians, 141 have been hospitalized, 808 have recovered and 19 have died. Among dependents, 50 have been hospitalized, 622 have recovered and five have died.
As new cases trend downward, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has released guidance on lifting on-base shelter-in-place orders and the department-wide travel ban, both of which require a 14-day downward trend in COVID-19 cases and local repeals of restrictions on gathering in public places.
Social distancing, face coverings and enhanced cleaning protocols will continue to be part of the daily routine on military installations, as DoD prepares for several scenarios, including a second wave of the pandemic in the fall, or smaller, continuous outbreaks around the world until a vaccine becomes widely available.
“I don’t think the coronavirus is going away any time soon ― at least not until we have a vaccine or cure,” Esper told The Today Show May 22.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.