Three More VA Employees Dead from COVID-19 as Cases Spike

Homeless U.S. military veterans stand in line for services at a "Stand Down" event.
Homeless U.S. military veterans stand in line for free services at a "Stand Down" event hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs on November 3, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Three more Veterans Affairs employees have died of COVID-19 in the past few days, bringing the department's staff death toll to 61, while cases of the virus among VA patients have risen nearly 75% in the past month.

As of Tuesday, 5,676 VA patients were battling active COVID-19 cases, according to data released by the department. Reflecting the surge of COVID-19 across the U.S. in previously unaffected areas, active VA cases are at their highest in Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota, Minneapolis and Chicago.

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Since the outbreak began, nearly 73,000 VA patients have tested positive for the illness and 3,901 have died.

After nearly a month of not having any employee deaths from the coronavirus, VA reported three additional deaths Tuesday, at the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kentucky, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Across the U.S., 8.7 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 225,000 have died, a case fatality rate of 2.6%. At VA, the case fatality rate is 5.3%, but VA officials say their patient population, which is older and has many pre-existing health conditions, places them at risk for more severe cases of the virus.

Nearly every state in the U.S. has seen an uptick in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, with an average of more than 70,000 new cases per day. Hardest-hit are states in the West and Midwest, according to the data. Cases remain low in Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Oregon, Louisiana and the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

More than 815,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered by VA since the start of the pandemic. As of last week, according to the VA, 445 patients were being treated at a VA facility for complications of COVID-19; all other active cases were convalescing at home or a non-medical facility.

VA began reopening its medical facilities in mid June for in-person appointments following a nearly complete shutdown of medical services other than urgent emergency care beginning in March.

VA officials have encouraged patients who missed medical appointments due to the pandemic to reschedule them.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

Related: Millions of VA Appointments Canceled During Pandemic Have Not Been Rescheduled

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