Coast Guard's COVID-19 Cases Have Nearly Tripled in Last 2 Weeks

A company of recruits march at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May.
A company of recruits march during a Sunset Parade held at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May on June 30, 2019. (Richard Brahm/U.S. Coast Guard)

As of early Friday, 90 Coast Guard members were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, nearly three times the number the service had recorded just two weeks before.

On April 2, the service reported 32 COVID-19 cases. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said late Thursday that, to date, 31 members have recovered and there have been no deaths.

The locations of the infected service members and the severity of their cases have not been made public. The Coast Guard does not routinely release information on its COVID-19 cases and did not answer questions from regarding locations.

Related: DIY T-Shirt Masks and Balaclavas: Military Services Release Face-Covering Guidance.

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, deputy for personnel readiness, issued a service-wide message Friday saying Coast Guard members are now required to report their duty status at least once a week to the service's personnel accountability and assessment system, which has been modified to include COVID-19 status.

Active-duty personnel, activated reservists and civilian workers must report their status; active-duty and reserve members must also report the status of any personnel under their supervision.

Members will report whether they are unaffected by the virus; have been exposed; are under quarantine but not ill; in isolation as a result of a positive or presumed positive COVID-19 diagnosis; hospitalized; or released.

They also must report whether they are working on-site or remotely or are not working at all.

"We know our workforce is being impacted both directly and indirectly by COVID-19," Cmdr. Susana Lee, with the service's Office of Emerging Policy, said in a release following the message. "Coast Guard Personnel Accountability and Assessment System will provide my office with hard data we can use to analyze the workforce impacts and enable strategic-level decision-making to maintain a ready, relevant and responsive workforce."

The nature of the service's essential missions involve public interaction, which carries potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Since the first cases emerged in the Western hemisphere, Coast Guard personnel have been in contact with people suspected of having the virus, from medical evacuations of passengers with non-COVID19-related illnesses from the Grand Princess cruise ship, later found to have 103 cases, to assisting in the debarkation of more than 250,000 people from cruise ships along the U.S. coast.

Fishery inspections, drug interdictions, search-and-rescue operations, maritime and port security and port operations all entail service members interacting with the general public.

Earlier this month, the Coast Guard issued guidance to members on the use of homemade or do-it-yourself face masks while conducting non-operational tasks in uniform.

Last week, in an update to the cloth face covering guidance, Coast Guard leaders said commanders are to assess the risk of infection to their personnel during official duties and adhere to guidance on the appropriate personal protective equipment to use during operations. Most, according to the release, will be conducted under a risk assessment that recommends Coast Guard members use surgical masks, goggles, gloves and optional N95 respirators while conducting operations that require interaction with the public.

As of Monday, 3,438 Defense Department service members have been confirmed to have COVID-19. This includes 819in the Army, 330 in the Air Force, 250 Marines, 1,240 in the Navy, and 672 in the National Guard, as well as 127 "DoD agency" members.

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

Read More: Coast Guard Continues PCS Moves With Some Restrictions Amid Pandemic

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