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More than 4,000 VA patients have died from coronavirus

By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2020

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WASHINGTON — The coronavirus has killed more than 4,000 patients at the Department of Veterans Affairs — a bleak milestone reported by the agency over the weekend.  

As of Monday morning, the VA reported 4,017 deaths among VA patients, with 1,000 of those deaths in the past two months.  

VA data reflects a nationwide trend showing a third surge of cases. More than 6,400 veterans are battling the virus right now — a higher number of active cases than when the VA experienced a spike over the summer.

Such as with the overall population, cases among veterans are surging in the Midwest. The Minneapolis VA hospital has the most cases across the VA system, with 187 patients who are currently sick with the virus. Milwaukee, Wisc., is a close second, with 183 patients.  

Other VA hospitals in Nebraska, Illinois, North Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota, Tennessee, Colorado and South Dakota were each reporting more than 100 active cases as of Monday.  

VA leaders have remained insistent during the pandemic that its hospitalization and death rates are low percentages of patients. In an opinion article published Monday in the Odessa American, a daily newspaper in Odessa, Texas, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie wrote that the VA “set the standard for how to cope with this unprecedented situation.”  

However, the number of VA patients currently hospitalized with the virus is double what it was in July, and about one-third more than a month ago. As of Monday, the VA reported 504 inpatients in coronavirus units. 

According to VA data, the mortality rate among VA patients is about double the rest of the American population. More than 76,000 VA patients have tested positive for the virus, and 66,000 of them are in recovery. About 6,400 are currently sick, and 4,017 have died — putting the mortality rate among veterans at more than 5%.

Nearly 9.3 million Americans nationwide have contracted the virus, and 231,000 have died — a death rate of about 2.5%. 

Sixty-two VA employees have also died of the virus since the start of the pandemic.  

The VA continues to provide support to the civilian medical system as part of its “fourth mission.” As of Monday, it was helping medical facilities in California, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

wentling.nikki@stripes.com 
Twitter: @nikkiwentling