DoD's COVID-19 Cases Pass 10,000 as Army Sees 31% Increase in a Week

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Jennerman,  performs COVID-19 testing procedures, Grand Junction, Colorado,
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Jennerman performs COVID-19 testing procedures, Grand Junction, Colorado, June 2, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer)

The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed within the Defense Department surpassed 10,000 this week, with the Army seeing the largest jump -- by nearly a third since May 29.

Despite a nearly 11% rise in cases and 37 more hospitalizations in the DoD community since May 29, however, deaths have remained at 36 for the past eight days -- a case fatality ratio of 0.3% compared with the United States' overall rate of 5.8%.

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The Army saw its cases rise from 1,383 on May 29 to 1,815 as of June 5, including at least 16 cases among cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and 210 among recruits at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

According to a June 1 Facebook message from Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood, 500 trainees of the 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, were tested on arrival at the installation before entering a 14-day mandated isolation. All tests were negative, she said.

But at the end of the quarantine, a soldier became symptomatic for the novel coronavirus and, when the group was retested, 70 were confirmed positive -- many with no symptoms, Martin said.

Pentagon officials in March announced that the services would stop releasing COVID-19 case numbers out of concern for operational security, but Martin said she issued the message to fulfill a promise to "communicate as conditions warranted," and an exception was made.

"This is a scenario that we hoped would not happen, but our health care professionals, our drill sergeants, cadre and chains of command have absolutely responded in a swift, precise manner," she said.

The total number of cases treated within the DoD since the outbreak began -- including active-duty personnel, civilians, dependents and contractors -- was 10,462 Friday, an increase of 10.7% in a week.

The number of uniformed personnel diagnosed with COVID-19 was 7,029, including 1,815 for the Army, 571 for the Air Force, 589 for the Marine Corps, and 2,546 in the Navy. The Navy saw its slowest growth in cases in weeks, increasing just 6.2% over seven days. Only the National Guard Bureau saw a lower rate -- 1,373 cases on Friday, a rise of 4.7% from the previous week.

Of the 1.2 million active-duty military personnel, one has died -- Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

An Army National Guard physician assistant and Army Reserve member also have died. The remaining deaths within the DoD include 19 civilian employees, nine contractors and 5 dependents.

As the pandemic swept across the United States, the military's handling of it came under fire from some service members and their families, who questioned whether decisions to continue training, allow gyms to remain open and work in offices were the wisest approach to containing the disease.

But after several weeks of allowing individual commands to make decisions on the measures taken to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, the Pentagon issued a stop-movement order for troops March 15; elevated the force health protection levels March 25, restricting base access for many; and mandated the wearing of face masks aboard installations the first week of April.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a May 28 Facebook Town Hall that the DoD has "fought the good fight" against the coronavirus.

"And we've been very successful. Our numbers relative to the broader population or relative to any other population have been very good," he added.

The U.S. has had the most cases of and highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world: Of the 6.6 million confirmed cases worldwide, 1.9 million, or 28%, have been in the U.S. The U.S. also has 28% of the world's deaths from the coronavirus -- 108,334, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has roughly 5% of the world's population.

The accuracy of the testing numbers and transparency by governments across the globe has been questionable, however, as published data includes only the number of confirmed cases and deaths.

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

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