Army Sees Spike in COVID-19 Cases as Training Reaches Full Strength

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The Army is seeing increased cases of COVID-19 as it opens up training.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Eric Monson, observer coach/trainer assigned to 1st Battalion, 383rd Regiment, conducts a demonstration at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on Aug. 21, 2020, of the new Army Individual Weapons Qualification standards that will take effect on Oct. 1, 2020. The Army has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases even as it ramps training back up. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Anthony L. Taylor)

Coronavirus cases in the Army have spiked in recent months as training intensifies and more installations open up, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday.

"Our numbers have gone up in the last 60 to 75 days because we've turned collective training back on; we're bringing people back onto the installations," McCarthy said in a "Fireside Chat" sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute.

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The increases began in July and tended to cluster at posts where there were spikes in civilian cases, according to Defense Department officials.

By early August, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Army passed 10,000 and; as of Wednesday, the total number of cases among soldiers stood at 14,255, according to DoD data. The total for all military branches is 40,026, the DoD said.

While acknowledging the recent increase in virus cases, McCarthy said the Army's leadership takes pride in its overall response to the pandemic.

In initial entry level training, "we had a couple of clusters, but they tied them off pretty quickly" at the installation level. He also cited the aggressive approach taken in containing the virus by Army commanders in South Korea and Italy.

"We're so proud of our people, the way our installation commanders responded" by enforcing mask wearing, social distancing and other measures, McCarthy said.

However, the service had no choice but to step up training to maintain readiness, despite the transmission risk, he added.

"We don't have the luxury of staying at home" to prevent the spread of the virus, McCarthy said.

The Army is taking every precaution possible to protect soldiers, he said. But "we've got to put them in a bubble, and we've got to train."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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