As summer has progressed, coronavirus case have spiked across the US. Hot spots in July included several states with a heavy military presence.
While cases are on the rise in the US, coronavirus is also on the rise in the ranks.
COVID-19’s Impact on US Troops
As of July 15, there are 18,968 cumulative cases among active duty personnel. This data reflects an increase of 952 cases from numbers reported on July 13.
When you include all DOD employees, there are 27,088 cumulative cases, an increase of 1,266 from data reported on July 13.
According to data analysis by Military Times, more than 4,100 active duty troops have tested positive for COVID since between July 1 and July 10. This reflects a rate of growth that is more than twice the national rate during the same period. COVID-19 cases in the ranks increased by approximately 33% while total cases in the US rose by 16%.
When each service is considered separately, the cumulative cases reported, as of July 15, are:
- Air Force: 2,805
- Navy: 5,084
- Marines: 2,124
- Army: 6,104
- National Guard: 2,614
According to Air Force Magazine, the DOD switched to cumulative reporting of cases instead of current active cases in April to “more accurately reflects the effects of COVID-19 to our force.”
DOD COVID-19 Numbers Compared to Total US Cases
As of July 10, approximately 0.8% of the total US active duty force has, or had, tested positive for COVID-19. The US generally has an infection rate of 0.9%. Similar to the general US population, some cases may not have been accounted for due to asymptomatic carriers or those who did not seek treatment and testing.
Military Response to COVID-19
In March, the DOD implemented travel restrictions and emergency policies in efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
Many troops were switched to telework as their roles allowed. Currently, many military personnel are still working from home or are on adjusted schedules to allow for social distancing.
During the spring and early summer, many troops were in limbo as PCS moves were paused indefinitely. However, those moves are back on and being scheduled, albeit on a sometimes adjusted schedule.
Beyond PCSing, troops general movements were restricted for both leisure and official purposes.
Many deployed personnel were held in place for extended periods of time prior to returning to their home bases. Upon returning, troops were quarantined away from their families for an additional two weeks.
All military personnel had travel restrictions imposed for personal leave and travel. Many were restricted to their immediate vicinity or had a tight radius in which they must remain. This radius remains determined by by individual base leadership and is in part based on local coronavirus data. As a result, some troops have experienced greater travel liberties than others based upon location and the decisions of their base leadership.
Boot Camp & COVID-19
In early July, USMC boot camps reported hundreds of cases in new recruits, based on reporting by Military.com.
Maj. Gen. Bill Mullen reported that less than 2% of total Marine recruits have tested positive during the pandemic. Of those who did have COVID-19, Mullen said that many were either asymptomatic or experienced mild cases that did not disrupt training.
According to the DOD, the Army and the Air Force are reporting similar rates of coronavirus cases in their initial training facilities, with about 2% of recruits testing positive. Approximately 60% of those cases displayed no symptoms.
In response to COVID-19, the military services are testing all new recruits. Army and Air Force recruits who test positive are quarantined fo 14 days or until healthy. In addition, recruiting target numbers have been adjusted for 2020 to reflect the pandemic.
The Navy and Marines are quarantining all incoming recruits for 14 days. The sea services report that they are requiring personnel to wear face masks during all training. Each training cycle is also reduced in number and capacity to better ensure health and safety.
Cautious Reopening Driven by Local Data
Each military base has been authorized, per information released by the DOD.
As of July 15, 32% of all military installations have removed travel restrictions. However, 158 bases remain under some form of movement restriction. In part, some bases could have limits on personal travel due to restrictions imposed at the state level.