Air Force Sees Largest Jump in Military-Wide Coronavirus Spike

U.S. Air Force nurse with the COVID Theater Hospital -1, Travis Air Force Base.
U.S. Air Force nurse with the COVID Theater Hospital -1, Travis Air Force Base, California, dons her personal protective equipment before entering patient rooms at Adventist Health Center Lodi Memorial Hospital, Lodi, California (U.S. Army/Maj. Doug Halleaux)

Nearly 22,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the military diagnosis in February, with almost half the cases occurring since July 1, according to data released by the Pentagon Monday.

As of July 20, 21,909 service members have received positive COVID-19 tests, up from 12,521 on July 1 -- a 75% increase in less than three weeks.

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Hardest hit has been the Army, with 7,282 cases; followed by the Navy with 5,629 cases; the Air Force with 3,263 cases; the Marine Corps with 2,470 cases; and the National Guard with 3016 cases.

Members assigned to Defense Department agencies made up the remaining 249 cases.

But since July 1, the Air Force saw the largest increases in terms of percentage, up 101%; followed by the Marine Corps, up 96%; the Army, up 89%; and the Navy, up 65%.

The National Guard saw a 48% increase in the last three weeks.

Across DoD, 9,509 others have been diagnosed with the illness, including 2,925 dependents, 4,563 civilian employees and 2,021 contractors. Nearly 1,000 people who work for the DoD or are family members are currently hospitalized with the virus. Forty-eight have died, including three service members, seven dependents, 11 contractors and 27 civilian employees.

Still, the case fatality rate among the relatively young military population remains significantly lower than the national average, .013% among service members versus 3.7% in the U.S.

The overall DoD case fatality rate is .15%.

The surge in cases among service members and in the DoD comes as cases across the United States have exploded: the U.S. as of Monday has had 3.8 million cases, more than a quarter of the world's 14.6 million cases, and 104,811 deaths, 23% of the world's total, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday, 90 of 231 DoD installations, or 39%, were been greenlighted for travel, while some previously cleared bases have reinstated restrictions, including Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

A significant number of the military's largest bases remain under travel restrictions, including the Army's Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as well as all installations in California and Florida, which are under complete restriction.

The travel restrictions continue to limit the number of military families who can make permanent change of station moves this year, although many moves are continuing with precautions on a case-by-base basis.

With the rise of coronavirus cases across the U.S., DoD has dispatched 740 medical and support personnel to augment staff at civilian hospitals in Texas and California.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command is dispatching 580 Army and Navy personnel to Texas to work at hospitals in San Antonio, Houston, McAllen, Harlingen, Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Rio Grande City.

An additional 160 service members have been assigned to five California hospitals, including Adventist Health Lodi Memorial in Lodi, Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Dameron Hospital in Stockton, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.

"We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, U.S. Army North commander, in a release.

"Over the past few days our joint service members have worked determinedly to relieve stress on hospitals and to deliver care to communities in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in support of FEMA," she said.

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

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