The number of airmen who have tested positive for COVID-19 has more than tripled since Sunday, according to the most recent Air Force figures.
The service reports a total of 105 airmen tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday evening — an increase from Sunday when the Air Force reported only 34 airmen had. The numbers represent a nearly 209 percent increase since the beginning of the week.
The biggest surge in cases this week came on March 25, when 37 additional airmen tested positive for the virus, bringing the 55 cases from March 24 up to 92 cases.
On Friday, the Air Force said that nine airmen have been hospitalized due to the illness and four airmen have also recovered.
Air Force civilian personnel and dependents are also contracting the virus, though there are fewer cases so far. As of Thursday evening, the Air Force reported that 78 dependents, contractors and civilians had also tested positive for the virus.
Across all the military branches, a total of 309 service members, 134 civilians, 108 dependents and 62 contractors have tested positive for the virus, the Pentagon said Friday.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams predicted that there would be a steep increase in COVID-19 cases this week, a problem he attributed to people not taking the threat of COVID-19 “seriously” enough.
“I want America to understand: this week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams said in an interview with the TODAY Show on Monday.
The Pentagon has taken several actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, including implementing a stop-movement order for all exercises, deployments, and combat operations overseas. The directive is expected to affect roughly 90,000 service members who were gearing up to deploy in the next 60 days.
Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders are bracing to combat COVID-19 for several more months.
“I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long at least and we’re taking all precautionary measures to do that, to be in it for the long-haul,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said during a virtual town hall on Tuesday.
Even though training and multiple military exercises have been modified or canceled due to COVID-19, Pentagon leaders don’t think the pandemic will jeopardize readiness.
“I think overall for the U.S. military, I think we will have moderate to low levels of readiness impact,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley told reporters Tuesday.