First COVID-19 death in military ranks

First COVID-19 death in military ranks

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy speaks at a press briefing to discuss the Army's efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic alongside Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville, Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston at the Pentagon Briefing Room, Washington D.C., March 20, 2020. (DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said a contractor who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency died Sunday from COVID-19, the department’s first death and a grim foreshadowing of a possible widespread of the virus in the ranks.

The contractor was based in Crystal City, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the Pentagon. That is the same location as a U.S. Marine who worked for DSCA — and was the first Defense Department member to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 7 — circulated upon his return from overseas assignment via Ethiopia. The Marine is being treated at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

The contractor worked in IT services and interacted with a significant amount of other employees because he helped set up Video-Teleconferences (VTCs) for meetings, according to those who knew and worked with the individual.

“The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking,” the Pentagon said in a statement on Sunday.

On Friday, the Air Force said a defense contractor who works for the Air Force in the Pentagon has tested positive for COVID-19. The last time that infected individual was in the Pentagon was March 2.  The individual has received medical treatment and has been self-quarantined at home since March 7, the Air Force said.

The Air Force also said that an active duty member who works for Defense Health Agency in Falls Church, Va. tested positive for COVID-19. “Although his duty station was in Falls Church, the individual was last in the Pentagon on March 16 for less than an hour and has since received medical treatment and self-quarantined at home,” the Air Force said in a statement.

Those are the first reported COVID-19 within the Pentagon itself.

Defense members who return to the United States are not screened for COVID-19 unless they come from a Level Three country, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville told Pentagon reporters during a briefing on Friday. However, McConville said it would only occur after a nation was declared Level Three — such as Italy and South Korea are now.
Personnel coming from those countries before a declaration would not have been screened, he said.

That means the 236 individuals on the U.S military games team that participated in the sporting competitions in Wuhan, China, last fall have not been screened. They are stationed at more than 53 locations, including three at the Pentagon.

As of the morning of March 20, there were 124 individuals in the Defense Department environs diagnosed with COVID-19, with four others recovered. That broke down to 67 military personnel, 15 civilians, 26 dependents and 16 contractors.

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