The County of San Diego has a great COVID-19 dashboard for residents to check numbers and other coronavirus information. But where can information be found about U.S. veterans and coronavirus? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains its own dashboard, which they call the COVID-19 National Summary, plus a weekly report. These tools use data to show how coronavirus is affecting veterans, plus a lot of other information and resources to help veterans who may be in need of assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Has Coronavirus Disproportionately Affected Veterans?
The short answer to whether coronavirus COVID-19 has disproportionately affected veterans is no. The numbers have not shown that veterans in particular have seen extremely high infection rates, but the details are more complicated. Often it is the particular life circumstances of a veteran that determine how at-risk a veteran could be. Some of the more at-risk populations within the veteran community include:
- Transient, homeless and unsheltered homeless veterans.
- Veterans in nursing homes or assisted living homes.
- Veterans who are older adults.
- Veterans with substance abuse issues.
- Veterans without access to adequate resources from VA.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 National Summary Shows the Numbers
The VA maintains a regularly updated webpage with a wealth of information on how coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting Veterans across the United States. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 National Summary shows information can be viewed on a national, state and city facility level by using the options on the interactive map.
The current information (07/22/2020) in the COVID-19 National Summary states that nationally there are 6,383 active cases of COVID-19 among veterans and those employed by VA in San Diego. Additionally, there have been:
- 33,511 total positive cases
- 25,201 convalescent cases
- 1,927 deaths
Locally in San Diego, there 81 active cases (as of 07/22/2020) of COVID-19 cases among veterans and those employed by VA in San Diego county. Additionally, there have been:
- 316 total positive cases
- 228 convalescent cases
- 7 known deaths
What the numbers are saying about the severity of coronavirus in local and the national communities is all about context. One of the most telling metrics is the percentage of positive cases versus the number of tests administered. This metric is considered one of the triggers for the County of San Diego Triggers for Modifying Health Officer Order. Based on numbers passing certain thresholds, the county has the power to further close down businesses, services and the public’s movement in order to reduce the risk of infection and death.
The “Testing Positivity” trigger listed for San Diego County is 8% positive of the total number of tests administered over a 7 day period. As of 07/21/2020, the Health Officer Order lists the current percentage at 7% for the entire county, just under the trigger level.
Using the data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 Pandemic Response Weekly Report for July 14 – July 20, 2020, the testing positivity nationally among veterans and those employed by VA is 0.068%. This number is far below the U.S. national percentage positive tests average on July 19, 2020 of 8.5%.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Weekly Report
The VA COVID-19 Pandemic Response Weekly Report is a very detailed infographic that supplies up to date information on a variety of veterans and coronavirus related topics. Much of the information provided relates to programs and actions taken by Veterans Affairs across the United States, such as:
- COVID-19 veteran outreach
- Maintaining a COVID-19 FAQ Hotline for veterans at 844-698-2311
- Collaborations with and support to civilian programs
- Media outreach
- Virtual Healthcare statistics
How Has the VA Response Been to Veterans and Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, a KPBS.org article titled “How a COVID-19 Outbreak Unfolded at a San Diego VA Office”, chronicles a series of slow and poor responses by a San Diego VA counseling center to an employee testing positive for COVID-19 on March 14, 2020. It is believed that as many as 30 people became ill, something that many involved believe could have been avoided by San Diego VA.
Since COVID-19 has been widely accepted as a global pandemic, VA has been aggressive in its response to COVID-19. VA has providing testing at VA medical centers, COVID-19 related care, mental health resources, shelter for veterans, aid to civilian communities and more. There is a lot of diversity in the veteran community, including a lot of at-risk groups. The most at-risk groups during the coronavirus outbreak have include the homeless and unsheltered, plus veterans in nursing home and assisted living facilities. With a coordinated effort to address COVID-19 among the veteran population, the rates of infection and fatality have been below the average across the United States. Yet with the virus surging once again and fall approaching, there may be difficult times and loss ahead for veterans during the coronavirus pandemic.