Analysis / Forces

Covid-19 Response Update: June 26-July 2

Combating Covid-19 Series

This is CSIS’s weekly roundup of major updates on the military and the novel coronavirus since Friday, June 26. It explores what the military has done to combat Covid-19 and how the military has in turn been affected by the virus.

New Department of Defense (DoD) cases of Covid-19 are rising at an increasing rate this week, with the 7-day average reaching 598 this Wednesday, up from 426 this past Friday, a 40 percent increase. DoD’s new case numbers are now looking like the rest of the country, as new cases far overtake the past peak in April. Although DoD does not release regional numbers, DoD attributes much of this rise to military communities based in states with rising cases, such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona, along with increased testing of asymptomatic troops before deployments. The new cases data supports this in part as new Army cases have been surging more than any other service, having overtaken the Navy’s previous lead in new cases since June.

However, DoD does not appear to be severely handicapped by the rising cases due to the comparatively low deaths (38 total) and hospitalizations. But deaths are often a lagging indicator and may rise in the weeks ahead.

Major Updates:

  • June 29: Service members are now permitted to travel to every state except California, Michigan, and Florida, even though some states are experiencing an increase in Covid-19 cases
  • June 30: 90 soldiers taking part in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training at Camp Mackall, North Carolina have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
  • June 30: Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Air Force conducted a string of long-range Bomber Task Force missions to Europe. 
  • June 30: About 350 soldiers parachuted into Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as part of a readiness exercise amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The paratroopers were screened for the novel coronavirus before embarking on the exercise and remained separated from Andersen personnel after completing the training mission.
  • June 30: A cluster of coronavirus cases has developed at Ahmed al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait among US Central Command personnel.
  • July 1: Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, attributed the growing number of DoD cases to domestic outbreaks, correlated to rising cases in states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and some of California, as well as increased testing of those asymptomatic cases. McCaffery further said that the rise in positive cases has not led to a similar rise in hospitalizations.

Military Cases of Covid-19

How DoD cases have been trending over time is broken down below, by new cases; total cases; active cases in the DoD; and across the military services.

Methodological note: 1) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday totals are divided across the intervening days and weekends since DoD Covid-19 updates are only released during the work week on a M-W-F basis. 2) Adjustments were made on April 9 and April 15 when new cases where negative. These days were totaled and divided by the previous day to account for the correction. 3) DoD appeared to change the way cases were reported between April 15-Aprilt 16. A resulting spike in cases on April 16 was divided over the two prior days to account for this methodological shift.

This weekly update is made possible by the International Security Program at CSIS.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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Mark Cancian, Adam Saxton and Nidal Morrison, "Covid-19 Response Update: June 26-July 2," Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 2, 2020, last modified July 2, 2020, https://defense360.csis.org/covid-19-response-update-june-26-july-2/.