US Navy Loses Two More Sailors to COVID-19

Lt. Cmdr. Corby D. Ropp
Lt. Cmdr. Corby D. Ropp (left) looks at the optic nerves of a Timorese patient in the pediatrics ward aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Nick De La Cruz)

Two sailors have died from COVID-19 complications in the last week, the Navy announced Wednesday.

Capt. Corby Ropp, 48, died on July 23 at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, and Navy Reserve Master-at-Arms First Class Allen Hillman, 47, died on July 26. Both deaths were attributed to complications associated with COVID-19.

Ropp was the department head of ophthalmology and refractive surgery at the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) at Camp Lejeune.

Hillman, who was from Boise, Idaho, was assigned to the Navy Reserve Volunteer Training Unit there.

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The Navy did not immediately respond to inquiries about the vaccination status of either sailor.

According to a tally, Ropp and Hillman bring the total number of Navy deaths from COVID-19 to 10 - the most of any branch. Ropp is the seventh active-duty death and Hillman the third reserve death.

According to the latest Department of Defense figures, the Navy has fully vaccinated 79% of its force. The Air Force is currently leading the services with 81% fully vaccinated, the Army is at 71%, and the Marines had the lowest percentage with only 57%.

The total number of COVID deaths in the military is at 26 as of July 21, according to the DoD.

These deaths come at a time when the military and the federal government consider resuming some COVID-19 measures and mandatory vaccinations in the face of the growing threat of the Delta variant of the virus. Meanwhile, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has ordered the majority of its health-care workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine - the first for a federal agency.

The Navy’s first casualty from COVID-19 came last April when Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. died of complications due to the disease. Thacker was part of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that had a major outbreak of COVID-19 last spring. The ship spent about one-third of that deployment docked in Guam and saw many crew members moved into hotels and other facilities as it was disinfected.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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