New military COVID-19 deaths come down slightly as cases drop nationwide

The Department of Veterans Affairs building is seen in Washington on July 22, 2019.


Three service members died of COVID-19 complications between Oct. 13 and Oct. 20, according to the Pentagon’s latest data, bringing the death toll for October so far to 11.

The deaths reflect a continuing trend among troops that began in late July and has since more than doubled the COVID-19 death toll. The latest update, however, shows fewer deaths than in any week since August, along with a decrease in new cases for the second week in a row.

The services have reported 248,865 cases overall, with 1,282 new reports between Oct. 13 and Oct. 20. The previous week saw 863, a major drop from previous weeks, where new cases spiked above 4,000 weekly in August and began to slowly come down later in September.

The trend reflects the pandemic’s course nationwide, as an unprecedented, late-summer spike in cases has begun to subside. It also corresponds with an uptick in service members getting vaccinated.

“None of the service members who have died from COVID-19 have been fully vaccinated,” Maj. Charlie Dietz confirmed to Military Times Wednesday, though one had received the first of a two-dose regimen. “With the increase in vaccination rates across the force, we are hopeful that these tragedies will come to an end soon.”

The latest reported deaths include:

  • Spc. Theodore Friedman, 27, died Oct. 9. He was assigned to 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.
  • Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Michael Haberstumpf, 42, died Oct. 10. He was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Intelligence Brigade, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • An Army major, 41, died Oct. 11. He was assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The most recent tally is unusual in that it includes only active-duty troops. Throughout the pandemic, Reserve and National Guard members have disproportionately succumbed to COVID-19. In the late summer/early fall surge, Army Reserve and Guardsmen made up roughly half of deaths.

The services have all set dates for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, most of which are coming up by the end of the year. The active-duty Air Force’s Nov. 2 deadline means that any airmen who intend to comply must have received the final dose of a vaccine by Tuesday. Reservists have another 30 days to comply.

Navy and Marine Corps personnel have until Nov. 28 for active-duty and Dec. 28 for reservists. The Navy on Monday announced it would stand up a specific board to handle separations for sailors who refuse vaccination.

The Army has the longest lead time, giving active-duty soldiers until Dec. 15 to be fully vaccinated, and their reservists until June 30.

Of the 39 deaths reported since August, 19 ― or 49 percent ― were among Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers, though they make up roughly 20 percent of the military overall. Since the pandemic began, they have made up 26 of 70 total deaths, or 37 percent.

As of Wednesday, 76 percent of the total force ― 315,000 ― is at least partially vaccinated. That is up 16 percent since Oct. 8, with 62 percent ― 1.4 million troops ― fully vaccinated.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.