Beaufort Observer: Veterans Affairs Records 400th Death From Coronavirus
The Department of Veterans Affairs reached another grim milestone Friday with the 400th death of a patient from the fast-spreading coronavirus, all coming in the last 40 days.
As of Friday morning, 6,363 veterans in VA medical care have tested positive for the virus. Both of the number of cases and death have climbed steadily since mid-March.
So far, 71 VA facilities across the country have lost at least one patient to the illness. Nationwide, more than 46,000 Americans have died from complications related to the virus.
Among the VA population, about 8 percent of individuals who have been tested were confirmed to have contracted the virus. Testing has ramped up significantly in recent weeks, with fewer than 17,000 patients tested on April 1 and more than 78,000 tested as of Thursday.
The New York City area alone accounts for more than one-third of VA's coronavirus fatalities. Four VA sites near the metropolitan area - including East Orange, N.J. - have totaled 149 deaths, all in just the last few weeks.
The death rate among VA patients who have contracted the virus is more than 6 percent, a figure that has risen as high as 6.5 percent over the last few weeks. In early April, fewer than 4 percent of patients battling the illness eventually died from it.
Nationally, the rate of death among all patients who test positive for coronavirus has risen to more than 5.5 percent. That level was also about 4 percent in early April, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The VA patient population being tested and treated for coronavirus may be more vulnerable to the illness because it is significantly older and less healthy than the American population as a whole. Medical experts have said that elderly and infirm individuals are particularly susceptible to fatal respiratory issues connected to the virus.
The department's medical center in New Orleans continues to have the most active coronavirus cases, with 454. Three other New York City area VA hospitals have also topped 400 cases. Seventeen medical centers across the country have recorded at least 100 cases.
To date, 133 VA hospitals and health care facilities have recorded at least one case of coronavirus.
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Veterans had been told they had until April 22 to apply for dependent payouts related to the coronavirus stimulus package.
Until recently, VA had been reporting the approximate age of all department deaths. However, that information is no longer being made public. All but one of the deaths publicly reported have been aged 50 or older.
In addition, more than 1,900 VA employees have tested positive for coronavirus, and at least 20 have died. VA officials have said six of those individuals had direct contact with patients.
Union officials and department leaders have sparred publicly in recent weeks over the availability of personal protective equipment at VA facilities. Employee advocates have reported shortages and rationing among staff, but VA leaders have continually insisted that supplies are adequate to meet needs.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie acknowledged that the department did face mask shortages in recent weeks but said he is confident staff has adequate supply levels now.
Comment: I have, from a reliable source, heard that the VA Hospice Center in Kinston has had 1 death and 1 staff member tested positive with the virus. Reportedly there were 160 tested with only 2 positive. Those positives were the one staff member and the resident that passed away. I do not know if these figures are included with the above report.
SMSgt George Schryer (ret.) is a 24-year Air Force veteran. He served as a B-52 tailgunner (see insert on the masthead) in Vietnam. Tailgunners were trained to not only protect the plane from the rear from enemy fighters but to also assist other B-52's following in a formation that might have experienced difficulty with their radar in locating the target. The tailgunner in the forward plane would use his radar to locate the target and then signal to the following plane where to drop its bomb load. The technique was called "The Bonus Deal." George and his wife Gail have lived in Beaufort County for the last 17 years and since his 'second' retirement from Grady White Boats in 2006 after 12 years there. He is a life-member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, currently serving as the Chief of Staff for the Commander of VFW District 2. George will be offering information for veterans and their families and commenting on issues he believes are important to all of us. He speaks for himself and not the Air Force, VFW or anyone other than himself. We thank George for providing this "Bonus Deal" to the veterans and their families in our readership. You can contact George at: email@example.com