‘Sailors do not need to die’: Captain of aircraft carrier hit by coronavirus outbreak begs Navy for more help

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The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in formation in the Indo-Pacific region on January 25. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier
  • The commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was forced into port in Guam because of a coronavirus outbreak, said in a letter to the Navy on Monday that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
  • “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,” Capt. Brett Crozier wrote in the letter, which was exclusively obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • He called on the Navy to find rooms off the ship to isolate almost the entire crew, a drastic measure the captain said was necessary to achieve a clean ship.
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The commanding officer of a deployed aircraft carrier hit by a coronavirus outbreak is pleading with the US Navy for help, pushing the service to isolate all crew members off the ship, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday.

The Navy had reported three coronavirus cases aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt last Tuesday, and the number of cases spiked to more than 30 by Friday, Fox News reported at the time. The Chronicle reported that there were now over 100 cases aboard the carrier.

The ship was forced into port in Guam, where the Navy is testing the entire crew for the virus. The Navy has insisted that the ship remains operationally capable.

“The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating,” Capt. Brett Crozier, the carrier’s commanding officer, wrote in a letter to the Navy exclusively obtained by the Chronicle.

A source aboard the ship told the Chronicle that as many as 150 to 200 sailors had COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

There are two possible end states for the Roosevelt, the captain wrote in his letter.

It could “maximise warfighting readiness and capacity as quickly as possible,” he wrote, adding: “We go to war with the force we have and fight sick. We never achieve a COVID-free TR. There will be losses to the virus.”

Or, he said, the Navy could take “immediate and decisive action” to achieve a clean ship.

“We are not at war,” Crozier told the Navy. “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.”

Crozier called for isolating most of the carrier’s nearly 5,000 crew members off the ship, acknowledging that doing so might be considered an “extraordinary measure.” He said that keeping thousands “of young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those sailors entrusted to our care.”

The captain said that the current strategy, which involves removing only a few sailors, “will only slow the spread” and “will not achieve virus eradication on any timeline.”

He argued that the Navy’s focus on testing over proper quarantining was inappropriate and said he was requesting “all available resources to find NAVADMIN and CDC compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.”

A Navy official told Insider that the Roosevelt’s commanding officer “alerted leadership in the Pacific Fleet” of “continuing challenges in isolating the virus.”

“The ship’s commanding officer advocated for housing more members of the crew in facilities that allow for better isolation,” the official said. “Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer.”