One-Third of the DoD’s Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients Are in the ICU

A soldier assigned to Javits New York Medical Station walks with a patient who is recovering from COVID-19.
A soldier assigned to Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS) walks with a patient who is recovering from COVID-19 in the facility’s medical bay, Apr. 7, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Barry Riley)

Of the 146 patients hospitalized in U.S. military medical centers for the novel coronavirus, one-third are in intensive care units, including a sailor from the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt who remains at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.

According to Defense Health Agency officials, 47 of the Defense Department's 3,054 current cases of the novel virus are in ICUs. The agency declined to provide detailed information on whether the patients are on ventilators and whether they are active-duty troops, dependents or DoD employees or contractors.

The DoD releases a summary of its COVID-19 response Monday through Friday, along with the number of cases among its patient population. But it has released little information on the severity of these cases, other than saying that most are "mild or moderate."

But the 33% ICU admission rate for the hospitalized DoD population is higher than even the upper range of admissions across the U.S., according to the data company Statista.

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In its analysis of ICU admission rates for the coronavirus in the U.S. from Feb. 12 to March 16, Statista found that they ranged from a low of 2% to 4.2% for those aged 20 to 44, to a high of 10.5% to 31% for patients 75 to 84 years old.

DoD officials declined to provide additional information on COVID-19 hospitals and ventilator use, citing operational security.

"Because equipment sets and current bed space are tied to operational plans and are constantly evolving, we can't provide specific numbers," DHA officials said in a statement to "We can say that we are all-in regarding this effort and, as a unified system, are working tirelessly to address the pandemic, provide care when and where needed, and help return the nation to a sense of normalcy."

The Pentagon on March 27 ordered commanders to stop releasing publicly the number of coronavirus cases among their personnel, citing operational security.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said DoD leaders are worried that the information could be exploited by adversaries.

Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections. By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.

If the ICU admission rate is higher for DoD-connected patients, the overall hospitalization rate is much lower.

The reported hospitalization rate for the military population with COVID-19 is 4.3 percent. By contrast, in New York City, where 80,204 have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, nearly 26% required hospitalization.

"We have significantly lower hospitalization rates for coronavirus than you would find in others, but that's, of course, the nature of disease," Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said Thursday. "It predominantly affects people or is most damaging to those in [their] 60s, 70s and 80s, but even young people are affected, just not on the same scale."

As of Friday, the DoD had 3,054 active cases of the coronavirus and 3,366 total cases, including those who have recovered or died.

The number of active-duty personnel diagnosed with the virus jumped nearly 14% from Thursday to Friday, increasing from 1,786 service members to 2,031. The majority of the increase was among Navy sailors, 741 of whom have confirmed cases, up 144 from 597 the previous day.

The Army has 411 cases; the Air Force, 256; the Marine Corps, 173; and the National Guard, 409.

An additional 325 military dependents, 493 DoD civilian employees and 205 military contractors also have confirmed cases.

In the United States, more than 473,000 people have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17,836 had died as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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