Analysis / Covid-19

Covid-19 Response Update: May 29-June 5

Combating Covid-19 Series

This is CSIS’s weekly roundup of major updates on the military and the novel coronavirus since Friday, May 29. It explores what the military has done to combat Covid-19 and how the military has in turn been affected by the virus.

Civil disturbances have pushed the pandemic off the headlines, nationally and for the Department of Defense (DoD), which has struggled to define its role in restoring order. Nevertheless, the pandemic and DoD’s support to civilian authorities in fighting the pandemic have not gone away. 

There is mostly good news in DoD’s pandemic data. DoD’s workforce has been hurt less than the country at large. Of the 10,462 current cases reported, only 465 or 4.5 percent required hospitalization and only 36 or 0.4 percent were fatal. This is for a total workforce of about 3.5 million (active-duty military, reserves, civilians, and contractors). The number of cases is likely much higher because of limits on testing and undocumented asymptomatic cases, so the actual percentages are likely even lower. 

The low numbers likely reflect a younger workforce, in the case of the military, a much younger workforce. Indeed, the military has had only three deaths out of 7,029 current cases. Most deaths have been among civilians, who tend to be older.

The number of new cases has plateaued since the beginning of May. Although the numbers have not gone down, neither have they gone up as DoD has emerged from lockdown and reopened many activities.

DoD’s deployments to fight the pandemic continue to decline as civilian medical facilities can generally handle the load.

  • Deployed active duty personnel are down 7.5 percent to 7,400 from last week (and from a peak of 16,000), and reserve personnel are down 90 percent to 54 (from a peak of 4,500).  
  • National Guard activations have begun to decline after several weeks at a plateau of 46,000. Current deployments are at 37,400.
  • Army Corps of Engineers is down to 5 FEMA missions, from 15 last week. The corps has completed 36 of 38 planned alternative care facilities, and its deployed personnel have dropped to 102, down from 580 last week.

Global deployments by Navy and Coast Guard ships continue; Marine deployments have restarted. Army deployments are planned but still pending. 

DoD has described actions it is taking for Operation Warp Speed, the national effort to develop a vaccine, but its role in co-leading the initiative is still unclear.

Major Updates

The Navy has continued deployments, though it has had to move quickly to contain infections.

  • May 29: A significant component of a fighter squadron of the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier stayed behind as the carrier went underway last Thursday due to a sailor testing positive for Covid-19. Over 100 members of the F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron ended up staying behind at Naval Air Station Oceana, VA as the carrier sailed. 
  • June 2: Sailors aboard the USS Carter Hall, a dock landing ship based out of Virginia Beach, tested positive for Covid-19 and have been quarantined.
  • June 3: The saga of the USS Roosevelt is approaching an end. After getting underway last week to reestablish qualifications, the ship is back in Guam but planning to resume its Pacific deployment. Sailors must test negative for infection twice before being allowed on the ship. No public announcement yet about the results of the Navy investigation into the captain’s relief. 

Marine units have restarted deployments after a three-month pause. 

Additional details and questions emerge about DoD Covid-19 relief funds.

Military Cases of Covid-19

As of Friday, June 5, there have been 16,394 confirmed cases of coronavirus within DoD. Of the current cases, 7,029 were military service members, 1,170 dependents, 1,576 civilians, and 687 contractors. 465 cases required hospitalization, and there have been 36 deaths. 5,896 have recovered. How DoD cases have been trending over time is broken down below, by total cases; active cases in the DoD; and across the military services.

Source: DoD Covid-19 Updates

Covid-19 Response: Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Personnel Trends

Army Corps of Engineers: Covid-19 Mission and Personnel Trends

FEMA Mission Assignments: 5 open. 59 of these missions are now closed.

Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs): 38 contracts awarded, of which 36 are complete.

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

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)