Military COVID-19 Cases Spike 41% in June, With Upticks in Hotspot States

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COVID-19 testing
Spc. John Larson demonstrates to Spc. Austin Edwards how to properly perform a nasal swab on Staff Sgt. Walter Singleton for COVID-19 testing at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Florida, March 19, 2020. (U.S. Army photo/Shane Klestinski)

COVID-19 cases in the military shot up more than 41% in June among service members, dependents and Defense Department civilians and contractors in what Pentagon officials said Wednesday was a reflection of the surge of the virus in hotspot states.

Among service members alone, the number of COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in June -- from 6,396 on June 1 to 12,521 as of July 1, according to Defense Department figures.

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"Not surprisingly, we're seeing some uptick in our cases in terms of infection largely around where we're seeing it in the civilian community, so in Florida, Texas, Arizona, some parts of California," said Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

"That wouldn't be a surprise -- we're part of the community," McCaffery said at a Pentagon briefing.

Another possible factor in the increase for the military was a change in how installations were doing testing, McCaffery said.

"Over the last couple of months, we have done more testing of those who don't have symptoms," including those getting ready to deploy, McCaffery said. "So we would expect if we're doing more testing of those who are asymptomatic, we're going to see more of an uptick in cases."

On June 1, the Defense Department reported the total number of COVID-19 positive cases among service members, dependents and DoD civilians and contractors was 9,885. As of July 1, that number had risen to 18,071.

Despite the increase in cases, McCaffery called it a "good sign" that there has yet to be a significant increase in hospitalizations resulting from the spike in positive cases.

Under general DoD policy, McCaffery and other officials at the briefing declined to give case numbers for specific installations, including the Pentagon.

Thomas Muir, the director of Washington Headquarters Services at DoD, said the number of COVID-19 cases among service members and civilians working at Pentagon facilities was added into the total number of cases reported by DoD, and he did not have a breakout.

When asked if he could give a general sense of the increase since May 22, when DoD reported 152 cases on the Pentagon reservation, Muir said he could not provide it, but would "take that one for action."

However, Muir indicated that the trend at the Pentagon was positive, reflecting the surrounding community.

He said there was a "14-day downward trend in new cases" within a 50-mile radius of the Pentagon. "We're fortunate in the DC [District of Columbia] region -- they're all trending downward," Muir said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related: The Military's Coronavirus Cases: The Latest Rundown

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