4th US Service Member Dies of COVID-19

A soldier on patrol in Afghanistan. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
A soldier on patrol in Afghanistan. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

A fourth U.S. service member has died from COVID-19, according to data published by the Defense Department.

Little is known about the individual other than he or she died over the weekend, the first COVID-related death of a U.S. service member since late May.

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Defense Department officials referred questions on the death to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who did not respond to a request for more information.

The Pentagon publishes data every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, recoveries and deaths within the DoD community.

As of Monday, 41,361 individuals affiliated with the DoD, including service members, dependents, civilian employees and contractors, have been confirmed to have had the virus. But deaths have remained rare among U.S. troops, whose population tends to be young and less susceptible to severe cases of the coronavirus.

The other three service members who have died of COVID-19 are Army Reserve Sgt. Simon Zamudio, 34, who died May 22, Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Charles Thacker, 41, a sailor who served on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, and Capt. Douglas Hickok, 57, a physician assistant with the New Jersey Army National Guard, who died in late March.

There have been 68 deaths linked to the coronavirus within the DoD since the outbreak began, according to the Pentagon. The majority of those deaths -- 43 -- have been among civilian employees. Fourteen contractors and seven military dependents also have died.

The number of cases among military personnel more than doubled in July, from 12,521 on July 1 to 27,536 on July 31.

Nearly 500 have been hospitalized for the coronavirus since the first military case was confirmed Feb. 26 in the Republic of Korea.

According to Pentagon officials, the average rate of positive cases among active-duty personnel has remained fairly steady at 5.3% -- well below the 8.7% of positive tests recorded nationwide last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, Jonathan Hoffman, DoD's assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said July 30 that the rate among 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. military is actually higher than the U.S. average for that age group, although he did not provide the data.

"We believe that the slightly increased confirmed case rate in that age group is a result of the success of [Defense Health Agency Assistant Director for Combat Support Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee] Payne and his testing task force and the services, allowing us to test at the entry to basic training, at the exit to basic training and at many other points in an active-duty service member's career," Hoffman said.

More than 25,000 National Guard members are currently supporting the military's coronavirus response. On Monday, President Donald Trump extended their deployment until the end of the year, with states expected to pick up 25% of the cost.

Among service members, 9,697 soldiers, 3,445 Marines, 6,888 sailors, 4,595 airmen and 3,857 Air and Army National Guardsmen have had COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Pentagon data through Aug. 3.

Across the U.S., there have been more than 4.7 million cases and 155,478 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, more than 18.7 million cases have been recorded and 694,713 deaths.

This story will be updated.

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

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