Pentagon Reports First DoD Death from Coronavirus; 15 Pacific Fleet Sailors Have Tested Positive

March 22, 2020 6:14 PM - Updated: March 22, 2020 8:42 PM
Lt. Cmdr. Danett Bishop, from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, tests respiratory samples in the biological safety lab of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6). US Navy Photo

A civilian contractor for the Department of Defense has died after contracting the COVID-19 virus, the Pentagon announced on Sunday.

The contractor, who worked for Defense Security Cooperation Agency in Arlington, Va., had been treated for the virus at an area hospital.

“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,” read a statement from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

DSCA is a key agency in the U.S. the foreign military sales apparatus and operates from officed in and around the Pentagon reservation.

“The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking,” read the statement

The death announcement, the first for the DoD, comes as the Navy announced several other COVID-19 cases throughout the fleet.

Five additional sailors assigned to ships in port at Naval Station San Diego, Calif., tested positive for the COVID-19 on Saturday. They join two others who tested positive on Friday.

In total, 15 sailors assigned to ships in the Pacific Fleet have been found to have the virus.

The service did not say to which ships the sailors were assigned. The Navy reported previously sailors on Pacific Fleet ships USS Boxer (LHD-4), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) and USS Coronado (LCS-4) have tested positive for COVID-19. USNI News understands all of the ships are currently pier-side and there has yet to be a report of a case of COVID-19 on a deployed ship.

In a Sunday statement, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said the command would no longer be releasing the names of ships effected, “as a matter of operational security.”

The Navy issued instructions to prevent the spread of the disease aboard ships in port.

Precautions include:

  • Medical stations at the quarterdeck with representatives to review screening checklists with all personnel coming aboard the ship.
  • Quarterdeck watchstanders are outfitted with nitrile gloves, there is no physical touching, and watchstanders are maintaining social distancing.
  • Enforcing social distancing and minimizing group gatherings.
  • Ship personnel are conducting deep cleaning of ship with HTH (bleach) on a twice-daily basis.
  • Antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizer are located throughout the ship, particularly in workspaces near computers, mess decks, common areas, and tool issue.
  • Self-serve chow lines are secured.

Ships underway in Europe and the Pacific are observing a 14-day period at sea between port calls as a preventative measure to limit the spread of the virus.

Also in California, a sailor assigned to Naval Base Coronado has also tested positive.

“The sailor reported to COVID-19 like symptoms to his supervisor on March 17th,” read a statement from Naval Base Coronado. The service member is currently restricted to their residence, receiving supportive and medical care in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local guidelines.

Also on Saturday, a civilian assigned to Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center, Va. tested positive for the virus.

“The employee is currently under care in a local hospital,” read a statement from the Navy.

“Personnel who were immediately identified as having close contact with the employee have been notified, placed on telework at their residences and are being monitored.”

In Hawaii, a Marine assigned to Camp Smith also tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Marine returned Friday from training and annual leave on the U.S. mainland, and proceeded to Tripler Army Medical Center with symptoms of COVID-19 infection,” read a statement from Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
“The Marine was treated and discharged that same day, and is in quarantine in off-base quarters.”

At Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Wash., four special Naval Special Warfare sailors who were training at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor tested positive for COVID-19.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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