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First US service member dies of coronavirus, DOD says

New Jersey Army National Guard Maj. Rory E. Tippit, center, a physician's assistant with the 21st Civil Support Team, demonstrates procedures at a COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., March 23, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
March 30, 2020

A member of the New Jersey Army National Guard died from the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Saturday, the Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed Monday.

The member was separately identified as Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a physician’s assistant with the 104th Brigade Engineer Battalion in Port Murray, N.J.

Hickok had been in the hospital since March 21 and tested positive for the virus.

“Today is a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member – active, reserve or Guard – to Coronavirus,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community. The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Esper added.

On Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the Army had 288 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 100 of which were soldiers. Among the others, 64 were civilian Army employees, 65 dependents, nine cadets, and 50 Army contractors.

According to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data on Monday evening, there are currently more than 161,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., in addition to nearly 3,000 deaths.

Previously, DOD announced the first death of a department contractor on March 22, marking the second military-connected coronavirus death. The contractor worked for Defense Security Cooperation Agency and was based in Falls Church, Va.

Days later on March 26, the first military dependent died at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

DOD has taken a number of department-wide measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, including mandatory social distancing, tightening screening and security measures at the Pentagon complex, and suspension of certain training and work activities. Individual military bases have also locked down gates and ramped up screening measures.

Esper indicated last week that DOD would be limiting its reporting of service members with coronavirus due to potential security implications.

“As we confront this growing crisis, and out of a concern for operational security with regard to readiness, we will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands. We will continue to do our best to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security,” DOD Press Secretary Alyssa Farah reiterated in a statement on Monday.

This story was updated to include the name of the soldier.