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Active-duty US soldier in Germany dies of COVID-19

Active-duty US soldier in Germany dies of COVID-19

An active-duty U.S. soldier died last week from COVID-19, the Army confirmed Tuesday, marking the military’s second active-duty death and 14th death overall during the pandemic.

Sgt. Setariki Korovakaturaga, a 43-year-old soldier assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade in Baumholder, Germany, died Wednesday while en route to the hospital, U.S. Army Europe and Africa said in a news release Tuesday.

Korovakaturaga, who had previously tested positive for the coronavirus, had been quarantining at home when he began experiencing worse symptoms, according to the release.

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Korovakaturaga, who was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant, is the first active-duty COVID-19 death in the Army.

“We were shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of Staff Sgt. Setariki Korovakaturaga last week. He was a tremendous soldier and teammate in our unit,” Lt. Col. Jason Kendzierski, 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion commander, said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children,” Kendzierski added. “The outpouring of support from the community has been heartwarming and is indicative of how much he will be missed throughout the formation and community.”

Stars and Stripes, which first reported the death, cited a local police spokesperson as saying he died while his wife drove him to a U.S. military hospital despite roadside rescue efforts from German emergency personnel and U.S. military police.

U.S. Army Europe and Africa confirmed last week one of its soldiers in Germany died, but would not confirm the cause of death until Tuesday even as a new military death was added to the Pentagon’s online chart of COVID-19 cases Friday.

Prior to Korovakaturaga, the only other active-duty service member to have died from COVID-19 was Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. Thacker died in April after being one of more than 1,000 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier who contracted the virus.

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In addition to Thacker and Korovakaturaga, seven reservists and five guardsmen have died from the disease.

The Pentagon has been grappling with a spike in virus cases in recent weeks amid the nationwide surge of the pandemic.

Germany has also been struggling to contain its own new wave of coronavirus cases.

As of Monday, the Pentagon has reported 140,654 cases of COVID-19 among service members, civilians, dependents and contractors.

More than 90,000 service members have gotten the virus, including 874 who have been hospitalized and 56,316 who have recovered, according to the chart the Pentagon maintains on its website.

In addition to the service members who have died, 95 civilians, nine dependents and 37 contractors have died, according to Monday’s data.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon detailed its plans to begin rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine, the first doses of which started being given to Americans on Monday.

The Pentagon will get about 44,000 initial doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, with plans of giving it first to  health care providers and support personnel, residents and staff of Defense Department long-term care facilities, other essential workers and high-risk beneficiaries.

The department has already targeted 13 military installations within the United States and three additional in Germany, Korea and Japan to preposition the first round of vaccines, to go out in batches of 975 doses.