More than 1,000 VA employees have tested positive for COVID-19

By James Clark ,

More than 1,000 employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to data provided to Task & Purpose by the VA on Tuesday.

The 1,007 VA employees who tested positive for the virus all work within the Veterans Health Administration, which is tasked with overseeing a sprawling network of hospitals, clinics, and medical centers that provide care to some 9 million veterans, many of whom are older, and have underlying health issues related to their military service.

"In accordance with CDC guidelines and the employees’ clinical status, the employees are all in isolation, mitigating further risk of transmission to other patients and staff," VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci told Task & Purpose.

The New Orleans VA Medical Center was one of the hardest hit, with 83 employees testing positive. Nearly 400 veterans there have also contracted the virus.

Other facilities with high numbers of employee cases include the Richard L. Roudebush VAMC Indianapolis, Ind., with 56 cases; the James J. Peters VAMC in the Bronx, New York, with 39 cases; and the VAMC in Northport, New York, with 37.

Four employees have died from the virus, according to the VA data.

Two of the employees worked in Michigan, at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, and the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. A third worked at the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana — and a fourth worked at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

"Due to privacy concerns, we cannot provide additional information," Mandreucci said.

A social worker at the VA Medical Center in Houston — where there are 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees, and 15 cases among veteran patients — said that staff received an all-hands message on Monday notifying them of the most recent COVID-19-related death of an employee.

“We’re all just trying to navigate this new normal,” said the employee, who was one of five VA healthcare workers who previously spoke to Task & Purpose, detailing how the department was faring amidst the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the number of veterans who have tested positive for COVID-19 reached 3,038 cases, and 144 veterans have died — up from 19 the day before, according to VA data.

Globally, there are more than 1.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases. The United States now has the highest number at roughly 387,000, with more than 12,000 deaths.

If you are a medical care professional at the Department of Veterans Affairs and would like to discuss the VA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can reach out to the author of this story at: James@taskandpurpose.com

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