Coronavirus kills 9th US service member as military infections near 59,000: reports

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A ninth U.S. service member has died from the coronavirus, as total confirmed cases in the military approached 59,000, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The fatality was reported on the Pentagon's coronavirus case chart, which now lists nine military deaths due to COVID-19. That number includes Guard and Reserve service members.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last month that only one active-duty service member (out of 1.3 million) had died from the virus.

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"Our infection rates were much lower than the American people, and every — every loss is terrible, but thank God we only lost one active-duty service member, and that the force has done pretty well," Esper said in a discussion at the Heritage Foundation.

The service member whose death was reported Wednesday was a Texas Air National Guardsman, spokespeople at the Pentagon, and National Guard Bureau told The Hill. More information on the individual, including a name, had yet to be provided. 

Prior to this week, the most recent service member to die from the virus was Sgt. 1st Class Mike A. Markins, a 48-year-old Army reservist from Kentucky. The nearly 30-year military veteran died in September.

Of those who've died during the pandemic, five have been Army Reservists, while two were Army National Guard members, according to Stars and Stripes. 

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The lone active-duty fatality, Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, died in April. He served on the USS aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which saw about 1,000 sailors test positive for the virus earlier this year.

The Pentagon has reported 86,735 cases of COVID-19 connected to the department, including 56,885 who have recovered from the virus, according to Wednesday’s numbers. The military has seen 68 civilian deaths, eight dependent deaths, and 26 contractor deaths.

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The coronavirus has been linked to 233,663 deaths in the U.S. as of Wednesday night, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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