Hundreds of veterans sickened by COVID-19 at veterans’ facilities across Georgia, numbers show

Hundreds of veterans sickened by COVID-19 at veterans’ facilities across Georgia, numbers show

DEKLAB COUNTY, Ga. — The Department of Public Health reported the coronavirus has killed 7,021 people across the state.

More than 1,300 of those people are in Georgia hospitals with the virus.

Those stats are more than just numbers, they’re people.

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Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon learned that more than 50 veterans have died of COVID-19 at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Hospital in DeKalb, along with many more across the state.

Bonnie Carroll lost her husband, Army Brigadier Gen. Tom Carroll, when his plane crashed during a routine Army flight in 1992.

“We had an extraordinarily happy life, but all of that really came to a halt in November of that year,” Carroll said.

It ultimately led her to establish an organization called TAPS, a charity that’s devoted to helping the families of fallen service members.

“At TAPS, we honor and remember our fallen heroes. And we provide comfort to all those grieving their loss,” Carroll said.

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Now, even more families are turning to TAPS for help as thousands of veterans across the country lose their lives to COVID-19.

“We really put our hearts right with those who are grieving around the country and around the world,” Carroll said.

In Georgia, at the state’s two war veterans homes, a combined 42 veterans have died of COVID-19 complications.

Those include 18 at the facility in Milledgeville and 24 at the war veterans home in Augusta.

Despite those numbers, a spokesperson told Wilfon in a statement:

“Veterans Homes have consistently been ahead of the curve with preventive measures throughout this pandemic. Both facilities have taken all necessary infection control precautions in line with industry standards and guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health.”

“Those numbers are absolutely devastating, and behind each one of those numbers is a family grieving a loss and asking questions,” Carroll said.

At metro Atlanta’s VA hospital in Decatur, the coronavirus has taken the lives of 53 veterans.

Channel 2 Action News was there for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s recent tour of the hospital, where he defended the VA’s handling of the pandemic.

“Our infection rates overall are well below anyplace in the country. That’s because of what they’ve done,” Wilkie said at the time.

But Carroll told Wilfon that she believes there’s still room for improvement and that more can be done to protect those who protected us.

“I know that Secretary Wilkie’s heart is in this. That they are doing all that they can, but there is always more to be done,” Carroll said.

Through research, Wilfon learned there have been about 61,000 cases of COVID-19 at VA facilities across the country and about 3,500 deaths among those veterans.

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