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Government

VA Secretary: 'We Have Not Been Overwhelmed By This Virus'

file photo of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie
Associated Press
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie

So far, about 8,200 veterans have contracted COVID-19, and nearly 5,000 have recovered. That's according to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, who spoke with KERA's Krys Boyd about how the VA is caring for veterans during the pandemic.

Highlights From Secretary Robert Wilkie's Interview:

The vulnerability of veterans and how hospitals are caring for them:

"About half of our veterans are over the age of 65. However, we have not been overwhelmed by this virus, in the sense that in our 170 hospitals we have 14,000 beds. And yet, today, we have 215 patients in intensive care with the virus and 492 in regular medical beds with the virus.

PPE shortages in VA hospitals:

"This is not an optimal situation. I have been able to provide our frontline workers in the emergency rooms, in the COVID wards, in the surgery wards -- they have protective gear. But others in the hospital do not get two our three changes of protective gear every day, because they're not in contact with patients."

Treating VA patients with hydroxychloroquine:

"My instructions were to use every means possible to prolong and protect life. We received guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration that we could use this drug for COVID patients. And our doctors, in consultation with the patient and the family, used the drug."

Testing veterans for COVID-19:

"If you have a concern, we will test you. ... We're not going to give 9.5 million veterans the test, because the entire country is using this. We want veterans to call us.