At a Blue Star Families online forum held Jan. 19, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough urged people to continue to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reiterating vaccines are the best form of defense against hospitalization and death.
McDonough noted health-care workers have been among the hardest hit by the virus.
“Day after day, night after night, they’re still risking their lives, their families’ lives — for us,” he said. “And nowhere is that more true than among our VA employees serving veterans, their families and their caregivers. Serving you, your families, your caregivers. They’re working grueling, excruciatingly long hours to save lives.”
The most recent numbers released by VA said 240 VA employees have died of the virus. In a recent message to Legionnaires, National Commander Paul E. Dillard highlighted the life of John Paul Martinez. An Army and Navy veteran, Martinez later became a medical technician at the San Diego VA Medical Center. He was known for his bubbly personality, a family member said. Martinez died on June 24, 2020. He was 62 years old.
The drastic increase in newly reported cases and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is overwhelming hospitals across the country. VA currently has 66,000 active cases of COVID-19 and has treated a cumulative 481,000 COVID-19 patients. VA health-care workers have vaccinated more than 4 million veterans, 80,000 spouses and 21,000 caregivers and administered boosters to more than 2.1 million veterans. Despite these tireless efforts, 15,000 VA health-care professionals were unable to work due to COVID-19 in January. The previous high was 6,000 in December 2020.
“You know, the best advice I can give everyone is this: listen to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci,” McDonough said. “Follow his guidance. Listen to your personal care providers. Follow their guidance. Why? Because it’s the best way to keep yourself safe, the best way to keep your families safe. Because we owe it to each other to help keep everyone safe.”
For more information on the vaccine, visit COVID-19 Vaccines At VA | Veterans Affairs