First veteran to die of COVID-19 was Oregon's first coronavirus death, officials say

Photo credit Getty Images
This story originally published March 15, 2020 at 12:50 p.m. It was updated at 1:45 p.m. March 15 and at 12:20 p.m. March 16. 

The governor of Oregon announced on social media late Saturday that the first death in the state attributed to coronavirus was a veteran. 

The man is the first veteran known to have died of the virus, VA officials confirmed Sunday. 

Gov. Kate Brown did not provide details about the veteran, other than to say he was the first Oregonian to die from COVID-19 and "he was an honored veteran who served his country to protect the freedoms we all hold dear.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends," Brown wrote. 

As of Friday, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported two veterans in Oregon who tested presumptively positive for COVID-19 and VA was still awaiting confirmation on others from the Centers for Disease Control. On Saturday, that changed.

VA says the man, in his 70s, died March 14 at the VA Portland Healthcare System "due to complications from COVID-19." 

On Sunday afternoon, VA updated its numbers to reflect that the veteran who had been in inpatient care at the Portland VA had died. Another still was being cared for at a community hospital in Portland.

VA has 3,000 tests on hand as more veterans test positive for coronavirus nationwide

As of March 16, VA officials said they were tracking at least 30 cases of veterans who showed signs of the virus and VA had administered 100 virus tests. 

If VA administered tests to all the cases it is currently tracking, that's about a 30 percent rate of veterans testing presumptively positive.

When the first cases began rolling in, VA moved to lock down visitation at its 134 nursing homes and 24 spinal-cord injury/disorder centers, which care for a total of 65,000 veterans vulnerable to the virus nationwide. 

About half of VA’s patients are older than 65, a population at increased risk for infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

So far, veterans have tested positive in:

  • Palo Alto, Calif. (1)
  • Southern Nevada (2)
  • Denver, Colo. (2)
  • Togus, Maine (2)
  • Arizona (2)
  • New Orleans, La. (1)
  • Southeast Louisiana (3)
  • Portland, Ore. (1)
  • Puget Sound, Wash. (5)
  • Atlanta (2)
  • Fresno, Calif. (1)
  • Sioux Falls, S.D. (2)
  • San Francisco, Calif. (1)
  • Bronx, N.Y. (2)
  • White River Junction, Vt. (1)
  • Cleveland, Ohio (1)
  • Hudson Valley, N.Y. (1)

VA officials cited privacy concerns when they declined to provide further details about the patients, including where or how they may have become infected.

As more veterans test positive for coronavirus VA shuts down visitation at nursing homes

VA is a last line of defense in the US against national medical emergencies like pandemics

First veteran tests positive for coronavirus, VA leaders say they have space to care for more

VA tells Congress it is prepared for possible coronavirus outbreak in US


Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.
Want to get more connected to the stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.