Four veterans have died of COVID-19, VA tracking nearly 400 cases

Abbie Bennett
March 24, 2020 - 1:41 pm
Coronavirus

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This story originally published March 24, 2020. It was updated March 25 at 2:30 p.m.

At least four veterans have died of the coronavirus and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now tracking nearly 400 cases of infected veterans, the agency reported this week.

The number of cases -- at least 365 -- is a sharp increase from Monday, when VA reported 204 cases and was still reporting two previous deaths attributed to the virus. 

Veterans, family members and advocates told Connecting Vets the number is likely larger, but VA so far only confirmed the deaths. 

The two deaths were both in the New York City area, one a veteran in their 70s at the New York City VA and the other a veteran in their 60s at the Bronx VA. 

VA said it had administered "over 3,378 COVID-19 tests nationwide" as of Wednesday, more than double the 1,524 it reported over the weekend and on Monday.

The city with the largest number of infected veterans remained New Orleans, with a jump to 106 cases from 63 cases Tuesday.

The New York area is another hard-hit spot for veterans, with nine veterans infected in the Bronx, seven in Hudson Valley, one in Albany and nine in Northport.

The locations of veterans testing positive for the virus continues to grow, with at least 74 locations reporting at least one veteran infected as of Tuesday, up 24 from a day prior. 

It's unclear so far whether those areas did not have infected veterans until recently or if tests have become more widely administered. 

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told veteran service organization leaders over the weekend that his department planned to deploy additional resources to both areas. 

While VA leaders including Wilkie continued to reassure the public that VA capacity is not strained by its coronavirus response and that supplies, equipment and staff are at adequate levels, veterans, like many Americans, are still concerned.

Calls to veteran crisis hotline up 12 percent during COVID-19 outbreak, Wilkie tells VSOs

VA put out a call to its retired doctors, nurses and other medical staff, asking them to return to work to help with the coronavirus response. 

VA asks retired doctors, nurses to return to duty to help fight COVID-19

Over recent weeks, VA has shut down visitation at its nursing homes and other facilities with vulnerable veterans, later expanding that to most of its facilities. 

VA officials are asking veterans with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath to call before arriving at a VA medical facility. Many appointments are being moved online using VA’s telehealth system in an attempt to further prevent the spread of infection. 

VA already began canceling elective surgeries and other procedures to pivot its focus more fully to immediate needs, including virus response. 

VA also produced a guide for veterans on coronavirus

Misleading COVID-19 flyer linked to VA hospital is fake, officials say

Amid coronavirus spread, Wilkie calls report that showed 43,000 VA vacancies 'silly'

Another veteran has died of COVID-19, VA tracking more than 100 cases

VA is a last line of defense in the US against national medical emergencies like pandemics

'We stand ready': Wilkie says VA is working to get more coronavirus tests, open more beds

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If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1 for a VA staff member). Veterans, service members or their families also can text 838255 or go to veteranscrisisline.net.

Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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