Second VA patient dies from coronavirus; department preparing deployment of 3,000 medical staff and additional mobile medical units


Veterans Affairs officials announced their second coronavirus-related death on Friday as the number of cases related to the outbreak in their health system topped 100 for the first time.

The death of an unidentified patient at the White River Junction VA Medical Center in Vermont overnight follows just days after a coronavirus death on the other side of the country in Portland, Ore.

No further information on the death was released.

More than 130 veteran cases have been confirmed in 38 different locations. The New Orleans VA Medical Center has the most, with at least 42 cases so far.

VA officials said nearly 1,200 patients have been tested for the virus so far, a jump of nearly 40 percent from Thursday’s figures. Nationwide, more than 10,400 cases and 150 deaths have been attributed to the fast-spreading virus.

In an interview with Politico on Thursday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said his department is preparing to deploy 3,000 medical staff and additional mobile medical units to bolster the national health response to the coronavirus.

The department, which provides medical care for more than 9 million veterans a year, is designated as the country’s emergency health system. Both Wilkie and President Donald Trump have referenced the role in recent days, but no formal activation of that fourth mission for VA has yet happened.

Wilkie said the quick-response teams are finalizing work for when that happens.

“They know that they can be deployed anywhere in the country,” he said. “Just like the reserves, their physicals are up to date, their shots are up to date. That prepares them to launch when called upon.”

On Thursday, as part of the public health response to the virus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to limit contact between state residents.

Life across the force has ground to a halt as the military responds to the coronavirus pandemic. (Sgt. Demetrio Montoya/Army)

The state has the largest veterans population in America — about 1.8 million, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. total — as well as more than 125,000 active-duty troops at various military locations.

VA officials have said that any veteran showing symptoms of infection — such as fever, cough or shortness of breath — should immediately contact their local VA facility but not travel there directly. “At this time, VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to please postpone their visits to VA facilities” until directed otherwise by medical professionals.





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