The Pentagon is reporting 10,462 COVID-19 diagnoses as of Friday, meaning this week saw the biggest increase in cases since mid-April, the height of the Defense Department’s curve.
After weeks of lowering or stabilizing numbers, 1,013 service members, civilians, dependents and contractors tested positive in the last seven days, an 11-percent jump. The spike comes as DoD is moving toward relaxing travel and base access restrictions, while shifting its strategy for delivering COVID-19 information, discontinuing a daily press release and moving the information online.
The defense secretary’s office “anticipates providing updated numbers until August where we will evaluate if there is a need to continue,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson wrote in a release Friday.
This week’s new case load is the highest since April 24, which saw 1,364 new cases in the preceding seven days. The last week of May saw 499.
The biggest jump came from the contractor community, where cases increased by 17 percent, or 107, to 613 overall. They had gone up 11 percent the previous week.
The next jump came from service members, with 7,029 cases overall, 751 new this week, for a 12-percent jump. Despite that increase troops still have a 0.3-percent infection rate, compared to more than 0.5 percent nationwide.
With 2,546 cases, the Navy is still the most affected service ― they saw 130 new cases this week, or a 6-percent increase, for 36 percent of troop cases overall.
But the Army’s numbers took a huge jump over the past seven days, by more than 30 percent, for 1,815 total now.
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As the largest service, with rotational forward-deployments on four continents and a consistent presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, the Army has the most personnel who fit into one of the mandatory 100-percent testing categories ― which include counter-terror units and any personnel preparing to deploy or redeploy.
During the same period, the Air Force increased 13 percent, to 571 cases, while the Marine Corps crept up 7 percent, to 589 cases.
Finally, the National Guard, which has mobilized more than 80,000 troops in support of COVID-19 pandemic relief and protest response, saw a 5-percent increase in coronavirus cases, up to 1,373.
The spike in COVID-19 cases comes as DoD is rolling out plans to ease travel and base access restrictions around the world.
One of the main criteria for both instances includes a 14-day downward trend in new cases in communities surrounding installations. While that might be true for some locations, the latest numbers show the services are not on a downward trend, and neither are other DoD-affiliated groups.
Civilians and dependents also saw increased cases this week ― 101 and 87, respectively ― after bumped of 64 and 54 the previous week.
About Meghann Myers
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.