The number of veterans infected daily with COVID-19 and admitted to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals has reached an all time high, department secretary Denis McDonough announced at a news conferences Tuesday.
VA medical facilities had more than 300 admissions in 24-hour periods on January 10, 11 and 12 due to the explosion of the omicron variant across the country. Meanwhile, 15,000 VA health care employees were unable to work due to the virus, exceeding the previous high of 6,000 in December 2020.
"Despite these challenges, our health care workers have stepped up once again, making staffing adjustments and increasing telehealth to ensure that vets are getting the world class care they need and deserve," said McDonough, reiterating the need for everyone to get fully vaccinated and boosted.
Total case numbers in VA system
As coronavirus deaths nationwide surpassed 854,000, the VA medical system (which includes care homes and health care centers) exceeded 18,400 deaths, an increase of 1,677 in 50 days. Those 18,491 deaths include only veterans diagnosed at VA hospitals and medical centers.
Since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020, 243 workers in 103 VA facilities have died. The total includes 11 workers at the VA system in Indiana and eight in New Jersey.
The VA has recorded more than 528,000 COVID-19 cases in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. That’s an increase of 143,686 cases in 50 days, for a total of 528,684 cumulative cases as of Jan. 19, an increase of more than 27 percent since the pandemic began.
A cluster of three VA facilities in the Los Angeles area has up to 19,507 cases (the most nationwide), adding 6,299 over the past 50 days. Cases in the New York City region during the same period rose by 3,531 to 10,772. Three centers in the Chicago area also showed a jump in cases (an additional 4,261), bringing their total to 15,165.
Two VA centers in South Carolina added 3,079 cases over the month, for a total of 14,019. In Florida, two centers in the Tampa region have reached 16,527 cases, adding 4,754 since Nov. 30. Two centers in the Miami area have had 9,427 cases, adding 2,950 during the same period. Two Boston-area VA health care centers that had surging numbers early in the pandemic added 2,412 cases, for a total of 6,188.
Fewer recently diagnosed veterans are dying than in the early days of the U.S. outbreaks, because doctors and researchers have learned more about how coronavirus infections behave and because of the VA’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.