A New Jersey Army National Guard soldier died on Saturday after contracting coronavirus and being hospitalized on March 21, the Pentagon announced Monday night.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy identified the soldier as Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a drilling Guardsman and physician assistant.
Hickok is the first service member to die after testing positive for COVID-19. An Army spouse died Thursday of COVID-19 complications, following the March 21 death of a Washington, D.C.-area contractor.
Hickok was a Pennsylvania resident at his death and passed away in a Pennsylvania hospital, Murphy told reporters at a press briefing.
He was not mobilized in the COVID-19 efforts, according to Kryn Westhoven, a New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs spokeswoman.
Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a Tweet that he was “deeply saddened by the COVID-19-related death of Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a physician assistant & New Jersey National Guardsman. All of us in the #NationalGuard are grateful for his service to our nation, as a Citizen & as a Soldier.”
“Our thoughts are with his family & friends,” Lengyel Tweeted. “All of us are likely to know people directly affected by this virus in the coming weeks.
“As our nation fights its greatest challenge in recent memory, we’re all going to need to draw on our inner strength & resilience to win this war & comfort those in pain. We must bring our best selves every day to overcome this as fast as possible for our great country.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was "a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member — active, reserve or Guard — to coronavirus.
“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community," Esper added. "The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
As of Monday, there are 26 service members receiving in-patient treatment after contracting coronavirus, according to Defense Department data, more than twice the 12 who were hospitalized on Friday.
There have been more than 1,000 military-affiliated coronavirus cases so far, with cases among troops rising from 309 to 569 over the weekend.
Nearly 15,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated during the coronavirus pandemic, as of Sunday morning.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.