First it was commercial cruise ships that became floating petri dishes for the coronavirus.
Now the U.S. Navy’s nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has been diverted to the U.S. island territory of Guam, the first American warship to have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“There were three [crew members who] initial[ly tested positive], there were five more that were flown off the ship or in the process of being flown off the ship, and then there are several others that are in isolation right now,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Thursday at the Pentagon. “But the ship is going to be pulling into Guam, and they’re going to figure out from there who needs to come off, who can stay on, looking at the level of symptoms and things like that. ”
Other U.S. officials have said there are now dozens aboard the Roosevelt who have been found to be infected with the coronavirus.
“We are already starting the process of testing 100 percent of the crew to ensure that we’ve got that contained,” said Modly.
There are 5,000 sailors aboard the carrier, and Modly says some are being tested with approximately 800 test kits available and a limited laboratory capacity to process them on board.
With 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, the Navy accounts for nearly half of the U.S. military’s 280 reported cases.
“Our forces are all over the world all the time, that may have something to do with it,” Modly said, “and we also have big fleet concentration in areas such as San Diego, Norfolk and other areas where we have a lot of people that are together.”
The acting Navy secretary spoke shortly after Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Reuters that the Pentagon would no longer be disclosing in granular detail where cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. military have been detected.
“What we want to do is give you aggregated numbers,” the wire service quotes Esper as saying. “But we’re not going to disaggregate numbers because it could reveal information about where we may be affected at a higher rate than maybe some other places.”
Modly acknowledged that the Navy had not been disclosing which of its ships had been impacted by the outbreak.
“But obviously the information about the [Roosevelt] came out and we felt it was responsible for us to come out and give you all the straight story about what’s happening there,” he told reporters in the Pentagon briefing room. “We’ll follow the direction of the secretary of defense in terms of this, but from my perspective, being as transparent as possible is probably the best path.”