VA COVID-19 Death Count Passes 2,000 as Infection Rate Begins Decline

Testing for COVID-19 is up outside PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic in Colorado Springs
Testing for COVID-19 for veterans is up outside PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

More than 2,000 patients under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs have now died of COVID-19, but the number of active cases continues to decline after peaking a week ago.

According to VA data, 2,041 veterans had died of the coronavirus as of Tuesday. The department has reported 36,731 confirmed cases since early March. But the number of active cases -- veterans within the VA health system currently being treated at a VA facility, in their homes or elsewhere -- has declined, dropping by 11% in the past week.

In the first three weeks of July, active cases of COVID-19 surged among VA patients, increasing by 43%.

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The number of serious cases being treated in intensive care units rose slightly in the past week, to 252 as of Tuesday, up 10 from a week ago. The number of patients hospitalized in acute care rooms has also dropped by nearly 80, to 392 patients, according to VA press secretary Christina Noel.

In addition to the VA-tracked veteran deaths, 42 VA hospital employees also have succumbed to the virus.

Despite surging cases in states with large veteran populations, including Texas, Florida and Arizona, overall active cases in the VA have declined in the last eight days, down from a peak of 6,424 on July 20.

VA facilities recording the highest number of active cases as of Tuesday were: VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend, with 284 cases; the South Texas VA Health System in San Antonio, 205; the Orlando, Florida, VA Medical Center, 191; the Miami VA Health Care Center, 163; and the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston, 153.

Those recording the most deaths since the pandemic began were VA facilities in New York City, Boston and New Jersey.

The case fatality rate among VA patients is roughly 5.5 percent. Nationwide, the rate is 3.5 percent.

Data provided by Noel shows that VA patients of color have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, a trend also true of the nation as a whole. According to Noel, 46% of veterans with positive COVID tests were white, 34% were Black, 13% were Hispanic and 7% were another race, or unknown.

In the U.S. roughly 11% of the veteran population is Black while 6.6% identify as Latino or Hispanic.

Noel said the department has not seen any differences in the demographics of VA patients who have died from the virus.

Across the U.S., 4.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 148,817 have died.

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

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