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Top Navy Official Provides Update on Aircraft Carrier COVID-19 Cases

April 1, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Numerous sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and the Navy continues to support its subordinate commanders to protect sailors and Marines so they can protect the homeland and maintain their readiness to the best of their ability, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly said.

In a telephone briefing for Pentagon reporters today, the acting secretary said the Roosevelt has had 93 positive tests, with 86 of those service members exhibiting symptoms and seven having no symptoms. So far, 593 have tested negative.


Nearly 1,300 crew members have been tested so far, and some of the results have not come back yet, he added. 

The Navy has accelerated testing and is deep-cleaning all the spaces on the ship, Modly said.

"We are providing the commanding officer what he has requested, and we are doing our best to accelerate the pace wherever we can," the acting secretary said. "Like the rest of the country and the world, we are learning more about stopping the spread of this virus each day."

The front lines are constantly being redrawn in this process, Modly said. "Stopping the spread of this virus is the fight we are in right now. [The] Teddy Roosevelt is a frontline theater in this new battle, and we have to respond with the skill and agility and direct communication required to protect our people and our nation," he added.

Tiltroter aircraft on the flight deck of a ship at sea, with another ship in the background.
America and Roosevelt
An MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron Reinforced is secured to the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America as the ship conducts an exercise in the Philippine Sea with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Feb. 15, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Jonathan Berlier
VIRIN: 200215-N-BT681-1203

Modly provided a timeline of actions the Navy has taken since the Roosevelt deployed.

"Prior to deployment, we embarked a special medical team on the ship," he said, noting that before the Roosevelt's visit to Vietnam, the World Health Organization identified fewer than 20 COVID-19 cases there at the time, and all of them were in Hanoi, which is "far away from where the ship was going."

The ship's staff screened sailors returning from liberty, including taking temperature readings, and anyone suspected of having been exposed was quarantined immediately. "We had no positive tests at that time," the acting secretary said. 

"At the end of the 14-day observation period aboard the ship, there were two sailors with symptoms who had positive tests," he said, adding that they were properly isolated and flown off the ship to the naval hospital in Guam, and that their symptoms have since been resolved. 

Two Navy ships sail in the Philippine Sea.
America Transit
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the amphibious assault ship USS America transit the Philippine Sea, March 24, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Beam
VIRIN: 200324-N-AJ005-1101C

"We identified and quarantined all those who were suspected of being in close contact with those that had tested positive," Modly said. And all sailors with confirmed positive tests were removed from the ship and isolated immediately, the acting secretary told reporters.

The Navy continues its process of contact tracing, quarantine and monitoring to understand who might have been infected, he said. Once in port in Danang, Modly said, the commanding officer and the medical team expressed concern that the spaces off the ship were not sufficient to isolate service members at an adequate pace.

Additional space in Guam was sought immediately, and progress is being made, Modly said. "We already have nearly 1,000 personnel off the ship right now, and in the next couple of days, we expect to have about 2,700 of them off the ship," he said.

Navy and Marine Corps ships on exercise.
America Watch
Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America watch the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt as it sails alongside in the Philippine Sea, Feb. 15, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Theodore Lee
VIRIN: 200215-N-FA868-1043

Modly emphasized that the Navy will not remove every sailor from the Roosevelt, noting that although it's big, it floats and it has a lot of people on it, the comparison of the aircraft carrier to a cruise ship pretty much ends there.

"This ship has weapons on it. It has munitions on it. It has expensive aircraft, and it has a nuclear power plant. It requires a certain number of people on that ship to maintain safety and security," he said.