Coronavirus Spread on USS Theodore Roosevelt is ‘Ongoing and Accelerating,’ Ship’s Captain Says

SAN DIEGO (The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS) -
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, travels through San Diego Bay after leaving Naval Air Station North Island, in Jan., 2020. (Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

The captain of the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, in port in Guam fighting a coronavirus outbreak among its crew, says that unless the Navy takes immediate action to isolate the crew off the ship, COVID-19 will continue to spread and “there will be losses,” he wrote in a letter sent Sunday to Pacific Fleet commanders.

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam late last week after several sailors on board tested positive for COVID-19. That was two weeks after the ship visited Da Nang, Vietnam, a country with known coronavirus cases.

In the letter published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Brett Crozier says there are two possible outcomes for the ship and its crew — remove the crew from the ship and disinfect it, or “maximize warfighting readiness” to redeploy as quickly as possible.

If the Navy chooses the second option, Crozier says, “there will be losses to the virus.”

“We are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily,” Crozier wrote. “Decisive action is required now … ”

The Navy is no longer reporting the number of positive COVID-19 cases on its ships.

The Pentagon said Monday it would not release to the public specific numbers of COVID cases on its bases or by geographic regions. Instead, the military services and the Defense Department are announcing total numbers of cases worldwide.

In a statement Tuesday, the Navy acknowledged the letter was sent to the leadership of the Pacific Fleet.

“Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt,” a Navy official said in an emailed statement.

The fleet is “pursuing options” raised by Crozier in the letter, the official said.

Since COVID-19 began to spread among the military community, leaders have repeatedly emphasized that their ships and crews are mission ready, even as they move to curtail the virus.

Crozier also said in his letter that the ship can fight if needed.

“If required the (Roosevelt) would embark all assigned Sailors, set sail, and be ready to fight and beat any adversary that dares challenge the US or our allies,” Crozier wrote.

Other ships — still in port in San Diego — have recalled their entire crews, who will remain on board at least 14 days.

The Marine Corps, which said Monday it would stop sending new recruits to its East Coast boot camp Parris Island, said it will send new recruits to its San Diego boot camp this week.

Crozier ended his letter acknowledging the challenge of finding individualized housing for the crew.

“This will require a political solution but it’s the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”