Navy Senior Chief Is 25th US Service Member to Die from COVID-19

Senior Chief Fire Controlman (AEGIS) Michael Wilson, 45, has been identified as the 25th U.S. service member and sixth active-duty sailor to die from COVID-19.

The Suffolk, Virginia, native died April 29 at a civilian hospital in Newport News after testing positive for the virus four days earlier, according to a Navy press release.

Wilson was on temporary assignment to the student support management staff of Information Warfare Training Command, Virginia Beach, Navy officials said.

“We mourn the loss of our shipmate; our thoughts and prayers are with the sailor’s family, friends and coworkers during this difficult time,” officials said in a statement.

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The first active-duty service member to die of COVID-19 was Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Charles Thacker, 41, a sailor aboard the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, who died April 13, 2020. The Navy has since lost six active-duty sailors and two reserve members to the virus.

The Army has tallied the most deaths among the services across all three components, with 13 soldiers having died since the beginning of the pandemic, including three active-duty troops, six reservists and four National Guard members.

Four Air National Guard members also have died.

More than 190,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed among U.S. military personnel, and 1,669 have been hospitalized since the first service member was diagnosed in February 2020. In all, 346 Defense Department-connected people have died of COVID-19.

To counter the pandemic, the Defense Department and the services have launched a major campaign to vaccinate members and to educate them on the importance of receiving the vaccine.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Monday that, while DoD continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on COVID-19 protocols, the department is actively encouraging personnel and military families to get the vaccine.

“We believe they’re safe and effective, and all the information is publicly available about the efficacy of these vaccines. The secretary continues to want to encourage people to elect to take the vaccine,” Kirby said.

As of Friday, nearly 800,000 U.S. service members across all components, or 33% of all troops, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Navy has the highest vaccination rate among the services, at nearly 57% of the total force having gotten at least one shot as of last week. Thirty-eight percent of Marines, 36% of Air Force and Space Force and 30% of all Army soldiers also have received at least one dose.

President Joe Biden said last week he would “leave it up to the military” to decide whether to make the vaccine mandatory once one or more receives full FDA approval.

By law, as long as the vaccines are administered under an emergency use authorization, individuals must be informed of their options “to accept or refuse administration of the product, of the consequences, if any, of refusing administration of the product, and of the alternatives to the product that are available and of their benefits and risks.”

Biden said it will be a “tough call” whether to make them mandatory, but he didn’t rule out the option.

“You are in such close proximity to other military personnel, whether you are in a quarters where you are all sleeping or you are out on maneuvers,” Biden said.

— Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: For Now, U.S. Troops Won’t Be Required to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

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