DoD reports first new active-duty COVID-19 death in 6 weeks

Elizabeth Howe
May 26, 2020 - 12:53 pm
A West Virginia National Guard Soldier waits for local citizens to arrive to be tested for COVID-19


The Department of Defense reported a second active-duty COVID-related death over Memorial Day weekend -- six weeks after reporting the first.

The newest death was one of seven new deaths in the past seven weeks -- a significant spike within the department.

The Army has confirmed the most recent death is a soldier, but declined to provide any additional information. The Pentagon similarly declined to provide any further details and said it is preparing an official statement to be released in the near future.

Previously, one active-duty service member and one National Guard member died from the virus. Both service members were working in high-risk virus hot spots. Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a physician assistant and New Jersey National Guardsman, was working on the virus frontlines when he died on March 30. Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. was among the 1,000-plus sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt's crew who tested positive for COVID-19. Thacker died on April 13. 

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Despite this most recent death, the active-duty community is still experiencing a far lower fatality rate than the general population. With more than 6,100 positive active-duty COVID-19 cases and three total deaths, the active-duty community's fatality rate is around .05 percent. Death rates for the general U.S. population have fluctuated greatly in recent weeks as data collection efforts are scrutinized -- but the CDC's most recent estimate reports a roughly .3 percent fatality rate. 

The number of total COVID-19 cases among the DoD community reached 9,173 over the weekend. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last week released guidance for commanders to begin considering a return to normal operations -- albeit with COVID-19 prevention measures in place. Commanders were instructed to make "deliberate, risk-based decisions" and to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control as well state, local, and territorial health authorities. 


Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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