Defense contractor death marks first military-related coronavirus fatality

Defense contractor death marks first military-related coronavirus fatality
© Greg Nash

A Defense Department contractor has died after contracting coronavirus, marking the first military-related death from the illness. 

The Arlington, Va.-based contractor, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), died on Saturday, the Pentagon said in a statement on Sunday.

The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital.

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As of Friday, 67 service members, 15 civilian employees, 26 dependents and 16 contractors had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The Pentagon has scrambled to staunch the rising number of cases in the military, earlier this month suspending almost all nonessential travel for eight weeks for DOD personnel and families, limiting access to the Pentagon and other military installations and canceling or scaling back exercises. 

Other measures include closing all Army recruiting stations and moving only to “virtual recruiting,”and requiring Navy ships to stay out at sea for at least 14 days once they leave a port.  

Still, on Friday the Air Force announced that an active-duty airman and an Air Force contractor who both visited the Pentagon in recent weeks have tested positive for the coronavirus, the first cases inside the building. 

The Pentagon also said Friday it is monitoring 2,600 military personnel in Europe for possible exposure to the coronavirus. Of the 72,000 U.S. forces in Europe, at least 35 have tested positive for the illness.

The latest statement noted that spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance when he tested positive, and the person's co-workers have been teleworking.

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“Our condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers and we thank the medical professionals who worked to save his life in the face of this virus,” the release said.  

“The Department remains committed to protecting our service members, their families, and our civilian co-workers.”

All 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia have declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, which has infected more than 30,000 people and killed more than 380 in the United States. 

Roughly 7,300 National Guardsmen have been activated to aid states and territories in the coronavirus response, with that number expected to increase.