This is CSIS’s roundup of major updates on the military and the novel coronavirus since Tuesday, January 18. It explores what the military has done to combat Covid-19 and how the military has in turn been affected by the virus.
The critical development for this period is that the Omicron wave seems to have finally peaked. The U.S. general population’s seven-day average peaked on January 10 and during the week starting on January 23 for the military. The lack of resolution for the military is a function of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Covid data’s weekly release. Another statistical difference is the seven-day lag in DoD’s reporting.
Nevertheless, several inferences can be derived from this data. First, military case numbers tend to move with those of the U.S. population overall. When infections rise in the general population, they also rise in the military. However, while the general trendline is the same, the military infection rate (number of cases adjusted for the size of the population) remains much lower than that of the general population, as has been true throughout the pandemic. This differential hints at the efficacy of the near-universal vaccination that the DoD has achieved, despite some outliers in all services.
- Illustrating the different approaches each military department has taken to members who refuse to vaccinate, the Navy has discharged over 100 members while the Army is just now preparing to expel members.
- In a letter to state governors, Defense Secretary Austin reiterated that the National Guard was subject to the mandate of Covid vaccination, something that several states, including Texas, Alaska, Iowa, and Mississippi, are challenging in court. Proposed legislation in Kansas seeks to ban the mandate and limit the combat employment of the Kansas guard to formally declared wars.
- The response to covid has activated over 18 thousand National Guardsman. In New Mexico, Guardsmen are filling in as substitute teachers. In Idaho, Guardsmen are helping to staff clinics and prisons.
- The Navy has modified its Covid protocols to meet public health guidelines, featuring shorter isolation periods.
Military Cases of Covid-19
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.