WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first U.S. military service member has died from the coronavirus, the Pentagon said on Monday, as it reported another sharp hike in the number of infected troops.
The Pentagon said the servicemember was a New Jersey Army National Guardsman who had tested positive for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — and had been hospitalized since March 21. He died on Saturday, it said.
“Today is a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member – active, reserve or Guard – to coronavirus,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. No further information was provided about the victim.
“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community.”
Earlier on Monday, the Pentagon said that 568 troops had tested positive for the coronavirus, up from 280 on Thursday. More than 450 Defense Department civilians, contractors and dependents have also tested positive, it said.
Reuters was first to report last week that the U.S. military has decided to stop providing more granular data about coronavirus infections within its ranks, citing concern that the information might be used by adversaries as the virus spreads.
The new policy, which the Pentagon detailed in a statement on Monday, appears to underscore U.S. military concerns about the potential trajectory of the virus over the coming months – both at home and abroad.
There has been a sharp increase in coronavirus cases among troops inside the United States, which officials tell Reuters have overtaken the number of cases among forces overseas in key branches of military.
The Air Force and the Navy told Reuters last week that the United States was home to the vast majority of its confirmed coronavirus cases among its personnel.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler