An infection in the highest ranks of the Pentagon, a new outbreak aboard a Navy ship and a record 1,300 new cases daily – all in one week.
The Department of Defense, long one of the most effective federal agencies at containing the spread of the coronavirus among its people, is now grappling with a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases across the country and around the globe.
The recent spike in cases in the United States – over one million in the past seven days – has prompted military leaders to scramble to impose tighter restrictions on the thousands of people who work at the Pentagon.
“This week the Defense Department is concerned, as is the rest of the government, about an increase in cases and we are taking precautions to mitigate that,” a defense spokesperson told The Hill.
The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, when many military personnel could congregate with family members in confined spaces, leading to the possible spread of the virus.
To combat this, the Pentagon will move to a higher level of health protection on November 26, reducing the maximum occupancy rate to 40% and increasing the number of temperature checks of workers entering the building.
The measure was taken “based on a steady increase in COVID-19 cases and positive test results on the Pentagon reservation since the end of August 2020, as well as an increase in cases in the National Capital Region since mid-September 2020, ”according to a DOD statement released on Friday.
The move follows Thursday’s revelation that removed Brig. General Anthony Tata, the Pentagon’s interim policy chief, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Pentagon said Tata along with acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller and three secretaries on duty on November 13 met with Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis, who later tested positive for Covid-19.
Miller and the three secretaries on duty have not tested positive since, although Tata has entered into a two-week quarantine and officials “continue to seek contacts of DOD staff who have had close contact with the Lithuanian delegation or Mr. Tata, ”top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
Authorities pointed out that the decision of the level of health protection was not made in response to a positive test, rather, it is a response to a slight rise in Tata in all cases over the years. last months both in the army and the country.
Last week, U.S. officials recorded more than 1,300 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 among members of the military, with nearly a quarter of the approximately 300 Sailors stationed on the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy testing positive for the virus.
Although the test positivity rate among the military is now 6.8%, lower than the US national average, COVID-19 cases in the military have continued to grow alongside those in the United States. .
More than 73,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed among members of the military, while tens of thousands more have been recorded among DOD family members, contractors and civilian personnel.
And earlier this week, a 52-year-old Hawaii National Guard died from COVID-19, marking the military’s 11th death from the virus.
In the larger United States population, meanwhile, new cases of the coronavirus have surged in recent weeks, with health officials recording more than a million new cases in the past seven days and at United States by passing 250,000 dead from the virus on Wednesday.
The latest figures show that even the military has not been immune to the influx of new cases into the country, despite being one of the government’s strongest weapons in terms of precautions.
At the end of January, when only six people in the United States had been diagnosed with Covid-19, the Pentagon issued its first guidance on coronavirus to service members and staff, even President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump campaign files re-count in Georgia GOP senator praises Biden, says Trump should accept results FDA grants emergency approval to coronavirus antibody treatment given to Trump MORE insisted the virus was under control.
This was followed by a partial lockdown of all military installations around the world in March, barring non-essential movement of DOD personnel and families and limiting access to bases.
Then, in May, a leaked Pentagon memo revealed that senior defense officials predicted the possibility that the military would deal with the virus until 2021, at the time cutting White House messages according to which the virus would recede in summer.
The department is not without its flaws, however, and has been criticized for whether it has done enough to protect service members from the virus, most notably in the case of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. An outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier this spring led more than 1,000 sailors to contract the coronavirus, forcing the ship to dock in Guam for weeks.
And Tata’s positive test marks the second time COVID-19 has appeared among top Pentagon officials.
In October, six of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addition to two four-star officers, were quarantined in their homes after attending a meeting with Coast Guard Vice Commander Adm. Charles Ray , who tested positive for the coronavirus. Marine Corps No. 2 Officer Gen. Gary Thomas also later tested positive.
Ray had attended a Gold Star family event in late September at the White House – where the virus quickly plagued President Trump and many senior officials – before meeting with the Chiefs of Staff in early October.
A Pentagon spokesperson said that while there were changes to the Pentagon as a whole in an effort to mitigate outbreaks, there had been no changes specifically for senior officials.
They said the ministry continues to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for testing and contact tracing, and to test staff before official travel and when necessary.