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Coronavirus cases in the US military surpass 1,500

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 6, 2020

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WASHINGTON — More than 1,500 U.S. service members had tested positive for the new coronavirus, marking a substantial jump during the weekend in confirmed cases among active-duty troops, the Pentagon said Monday.

The new figures released Monday show the Navy remains the hardest hit of the Defense Department’s military services, with 431 of the 1,435 active coronavirus cases reported among service members. The Pentagon on Friday reported 978 active cases among service members.

In total, 1,555 service members have tested positive for the virus, including troops who since have recovered. Thirty-seven are hospitalized with the virus and one soldier — a New Jersey National Guardsmen — died of complications caused by the virus.

Another 973 Defense Department-linked individuals had tested positive for the virus by Monday, ​including five who died after contracting it, the Pentagon data showed. That included 425 DOD civilian workers, 362 military dependents and 186 defense contractors.

The Navy’s latest numbers showed a 99-case increase since Friday, as the service deals with the only known significant outbreak of the virus among military troops serving together. More than 150 of the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s almost 5,000 sailors had tested positive for the virus as of Saturday as Navy officials worked to test the entire crew of the aircraft carrier now anchored off the coast of Guam. Navy officials reported Friday that nearly 50% of that crew had been tested and they were working to move the vast majority of the crew onto Guam for two weeks isolation to slow the spread.

Among the crew reportedly testing positive for the virus was the ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed from command Thursday after a letter that he penned critical of Navy leadership’s handling of the situation was leaked to the media. The New York Times on Sunday reported Crozier’s positive test, citing unnamed Naval Academy classmates of the captain who remain close to him.

The Army, the largest of the military services, reported the second-highest total of coronavirus troops with 334 cases as of Monday. The Air Force reported 281 cases and the Marine Corps reported 86 cases. The National Guard reported 303 cases among its Air and Army Guard members.

Aside from the breakout among the Roosevelt’s crew, it has been difficult to ascertain where other military cases have been confirmed because the Pentagon has restricted commanders from publicly announcing how many cases exist on their installations, citing security concerns.

Pentagon officials have warned the outbreak in the U.S. could last into the summer months. They have urged their troops to take protective measures to ensure their health, including following social-distancing and hand-washing guidelines championed by public health officials.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered Defense Department personnel, including military troops, to wear masks when they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from other people in public or work settings. He encouraged troops to procure, or even to sew, their own masks, as the military will not be providing them to troops.

“Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers,” Esper wrote in a message to the force.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC