The US Navy is moving 2,700 sailors off an aircraft carrier ASAP to combat a coronavirus outbreak on board

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59), left, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), transit in formation. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony J. Rivera
  • The US Navy has already pulled almost 1,000 sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and that number is expected to rise to 2,700 in the next few days, the acting Navy secretary said Wednesday.
  • The acting secretary insisted that it is necessary to keep some crew members on the carrier to run the ship and carry out essential duties.
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors who test negative for the coronavirus will be quarantined off ship at vacant hotels in Guam, where the ship is currently in port.
  • Around one-fourth of the carrier’s crew has been tested, and less than 100 tests have come back positive.
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The US Navy is pulling sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier hit hard by the coronavirus and forced into port in Guam.

Almost 1,000 sailors have already gone ashore. That number is expected to rise to 2,700 within the next couple of days, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said at the Pentagon Wednesday.

Rear Adm. John Menoni, the Navy Joint Region Marianas commander, said at an earlier press briefing that “the plan is to remove as many people off the Teddy Roosevelt as we can.” At the same event, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said that she has “agreed to allow the restricted housing of sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19” in vacant hotels.

Modly told CNN Tuesday that the Navy has been trying to get sailors off the ship but was having difficulties finding enough beds for sailors taken ashore. He explained that the Navy is “having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space or create some tent-type facilities there.”

Navy sailors who are housed in local hotels will be in quarantine for two weeks. The quarantine will be enforced by military security.

Capt. Brett Crozier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, recently sent a memo to Navy leaders calling for the movement of as much as 90 per cent of the ship’s crew ashore, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported after obtaining a copy of the letter.

The CO argued that keeping sailors in close quarters aboard the ship was an “unnecessary risk,” writing that “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.”

Families of sailors have also been calling on the Navy to take aggressive action.

“There is nothing the Navy can do, there’s not a flag they can fold up for any mother, child or wife that is going to satisfy anyone should they lose a loved one from this,” a woman whose husband is serving aboard the TR told Insider Tuesday. In a letter to the chief of naval operations, she expressed concern that sailors “are not safe aboard that ship.”

Navy leadership says that the service is responding to feedback and taking steps to appropriately handle the situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In addition to taking steps to remove sailors from the ship, the Navy is also testing the entire crew for the virus. The Navy has tested 1,273 sailors, roughly one-fourth of the crew aboard the aircraft carrier. So far, only 93 have tested positive, Modly said Wednesday.

While sailors are heading ashore, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told reporters Wednesday that around 1,000 sailors needed to stay on the ship to ensure that the powerful vessel remained operational.

As the Navy moves forward with its plans, the governor of Guam suggested Wednesday that there might be local pushback on Navy plans to bring sailors ashore.

“We have an interest in protecting our community and stopping the spread of COVID-19 just as much as the military has an obligation to return the USS Roosevelt to the open ocean to protect Guam and the region,” she said, according to local media.

Update: This piece has been updated to include acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and CNO Adm. Michael Gilday’s comments at the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon.