Pentagon & Congress

New military coronavirus cases show lowest increase in months

While the services’ count of COVID-19 diagnoses crossed 30,000 this week, the number of new cases showed a drop in the virus’s rate of spread, one of the lowest since before states and cities began rolling out re-opening plans at the end of May.

With 2,856 new positives this week, a 10-percent bump, the military showed a continued downward trend in the number of new cases, after spikes in June and July that saw more than 4,000 new cases weekly at one point.

To date, 30,392 troops have tested positive for COVID-19, through a mix of symptomatic diagnostics and mandatory testing for traveling overseas or certain counter-terror or nuclear-deterrence jobs.

Of those, 510 have been hospitalized and four have died, while 15,896 recoveries means roughly half of those cases are still active.

Though the Defense Department has touted its low hospitalization and death rates, the tens of thousands of infected troops have had to spend at least two weeks quarantined, but as long as several months, before they re-tested negative and returned to duty.

“We’ve been able to minimize the number of outbreaks that have taken an entire unit down or an entire capability down,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, told Military Times on July 30, thus heading off any major hits to readiness.

At the same time, the military’s infection rate has climbed to 1.4 percent, equal to the rate nationwide, whereas troops had been infected at lower rates through most of the pandemic.

“We’ve not seen any widespread evidence that what’s occurring in the 18-to-24 demographic is because they’re not following the rules,” Friedrichs said, after announcing that young adults in the military are seeing a slightly higher infection rate than those in the civilian world.

Defense officials have, however, attributed the spikes of June and July to similar patterns in states like California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, where the opening of many indoor businesses and uneven rules about face coverings correlated to outbreaks.

Leveling off in those states has come alongside the military’s drop in new cases.

The Marine Corps saw the biggest percentage increase in new cases this week, with 489 new cases and a 15-percent increase, down from over 1,000 new cases two weeks ago.

The Army, which is roughly the size of the other services put together, crossed 10,000 diagnoses this week, adding 969 new positives, for an overall total of 10, 245.

The Navy, which began the pandemic with more than 1,000 aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt sailors testing positive, has reported 7,166 cases, 540 of them new this week.

The Air Force, which at one point had the lowest infection rate within the services, has gotten on par, with 4,789 cases, 439 new this week.

And the National Guard, which has deployed tens of thousands of troops during the pandemic, reports 4,151 cases, 404 new this week.

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