WASHINGTON — A New Jersey National Guardsman is the first U.S. service member to die of COVID-19, the Pentagon announced Monday night.
The Guardsman died Saturday and had been hospitalized since March 21.
Earlier Monday, the Pentagon had announced that the number of COVID-19 cases among troops, their families and civilian employees had surpassed 1,000. There were 1,043 cases compared with 613 on Friday, a 70% increase.
The first dependent of a service member died of the disease, according to the Pentagon. There are 569 troops with the disease, 26 of whom are hospitalized.
No other information was released about the Guard member from New Jersey.
“Today is a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member – active, reserve or Guard – to coronavirus,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. “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. “
The disease has forced the Pentagon to shutter recruiting facilities, scrap major training exercises, halt travel and enforce social distancing on its posts. Units that are needed for rapid deployment to hot spots around the globe are being sequestered to keep them from becoming infected.