WASHINGTON – In light of a growing COVID-19 crisis, the VA announced it has successfully increased its intensive care unit and medical/surgical bed capacity by more than 4,000 across the nation. Those beds are likely to be needed, as the novel coronavirus has ambushed a growing number of veterans and VA facilities.

In just over two weeks from the first reported death of a veteran to COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, more than 1,600 veterans have tested positive and 53 have died.

In fact, the number of deaths doubled in the last day, and the number of cases increased nearly 50% between March 31 and April 1.

The VA reported 27 veteran deaths at VAMCs around the country as of March 30. The first death occurred at the VA Portland Health Care System on March 14. Within days, a second was reported at the White River Junction VAMC in Vermont.

The number of deaths continues to accelerate. Deaths reported this week include nine veterans at the New Orleans VAMC, three at the VAMC in Detroit. Other facilities with reported deaths in recent days include the Bronx, Eastern Colorado, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New York Harbor, Upstate New York, and Washington, DC. The VA New York Harbor Health Care System and Tennessee Valley Health Care System also each had one death.

All deceased veterans were over age 50, with the majority in their 70s and 80s.

As of April 1, the number of veterans with confirmed infections totaled 1,602. Cases were widely scattered across the country.

The highest numbers of positive cases were in VAMCs along the East Coast, although the number in the Midwest was rising quickly. New Orleans had the highest concentration of cases, with 32 inpatients and 255 outpatients. Atlanta had 14 inpatient cases and 48 outpatient cases, while Bronx, NY, had 15 inpatient and 61 outpatient cases and Brooklyn had 19 inpatients and 57 outpatients affected by COVID-10. The DCVAMC in Washington reported 14 inpatients with the virus and 35 outpatients.

Chicago had nine inpatient and 42 outpatient cases, while Detroit had 18 inpatients and 32 outpatients on April 1. Meanwhile, Indianapolis reported 26 inpatients with coronavirus and 22 outpatients with the disease.

Eastern Colorado had also experienced a sharp rise in numbers, with five inpatient cases and 54 outpatients, as of April 1.

By late March, the department had administered more than 16,000 coronavirus tests, with a positive rate of nearly 10%.