The number of Covid-19 cases in the US military has nearly tripled since just before Christmas, according to Department of Defense statistics.
As of December 22, the department reported 5,285 cases among all military service members. By January 5, it had climbed to 13,940 according to published statistics.
The jump reflects, to some extent, what is happening in civil society as the Omicron variant has taken hold and the case rate has increased in many communities across the country, defense officials say. The Defense Department is not specifically testing the Omicron variant, but officials say there is every reason to believe the highly contagious variant has hit military force. Updated statistics will be released by the department on Wednesday.
Defense officials point out that even with the tripling, this is a small percentage of the more than two million active-duty personnel, the National Guard and the Reserve forces.
It comes as the military increases health restrictions in several locations. Wright Patterson Air Force Base has upgraded to the highest level of health protection measures, which now includes clearing only 15% of the workforce in the office at a time.
The move comes as positivity rates have increased in the region, the Air Force said. It is currently the only major US military installation classified as Delta.
In Japan, US forces are now largely confined to the base, except for mandatory travel circumstances. And at the Pentagon, reinforced health protection measures have also been put in place.
The military also saw an increase in deaths from Covid-19 in September and October, as the Delta variant increased according to Defense Ministry statistics. As of September 1, there had been 40 military deaths due to Covid-19. On January 5, the total was 86.
Defense officials note that most occurred on October 18 and 13, respectively. The assessment is due not only to the Delta variant, but the services had not yet reached the final mandatory vaccination requirement. In November, there had been just four military deaths, seven in December and four so far in January, according to a defense official.
One base that has seen an increase after the holidays is Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which currently has an estimated 50% positivity rate among those tested. The base hospital, Womack Army Medical Center, was at 100% capacity at the end of last week, a military official told CNN.
Fort Bragg is the headquarters for much of the Army’s rapid response capability in a crisis. So far, these units have not been affected to the point of not being able to deploy, but commanders are ready to supplement with other troops if necessary.