SAN DIEGO — As part of the U.S. Navy’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, the ship was to arrive at Naval Base San Diego on April 28 for medical care for its Sailors and for cleaning and disinfecting of the ship, according to Naval Surface Forces public affairs.
“Sailors have called San Diego home for many years, and we’re especially thankful for that relationship now,” said Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces. “Taking care of our Sailors and cleaning this ship is a team effort, and we’re fortunate that the partnership between the Navy and the city of San Diego is allowing us to focus on that mission.”
USS Kidd was at sea participating in counter-narcotics operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility when several of its Sailors began exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
One Sailor was evacuated to the U.S. on April 22 after experiencing shortness of breath. The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet redirected the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island — with its medical facility, including an intensive care unit, ventilators and additional testing capability — to rendezvous with the Kidd.
On April 23, eight medical personnel arrived on board the Kidd with equipment to begin testing the crew for COVID-19. As of April 25, 33 Sailors there had tested positive for the virus, the Navy reported.
The Kidd’s executive officer, Cmdr. Matt Noland, released a letter via social media to friends and family on April 24. In it, Noland wrote, “The Navy pulled out all the stops — specialist doctors have already arrived from the United States to test and help care for our shipmates.”
As Navy leadership solidified plans to return the ship to port, Sailors who warranted closer observation were transported from the Kidd to the Makin Island out of caution. An additional Sailor was medically evacuated to the United States. Meanwhile, the ship’s crew began intensive cleaning efforts while still underway.
All Sailors will be isolated off the ship with twice-daily medical screenings. Crew members who have tested negative will quarantine for a period of observation, to include daily visits from military health professionals.
A small contingent of Sailors who have tested negative will remain on the ship for essential services and deep cleaning. These Sailors will be outfitted with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and will maintain social distancing, in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.
“San Diego may not be USS Kidd’s home port, but we are definitely being made to feel at home,” said Cmdr. Nathan Wemett, commanding officer of the Naval Station Everett, Washington-based ship. “I am personally grateful to know that we have such a strong bond with our Navy communities. It’s the strength of those bonds that helps us work together in challenging situations.”
While in San Diego, the Kidd will undergo a deep cleaning that balances decontamination with preventing damage to the ship’s systems. The cleaning process begins with spaces being vacated for seven days — four days longer than the minimum recommended by the CDC. The ship will be cleansed room-by-room, with access to each space restricted. The process is expected to take about two weeks, at which time Sailors who are confirmed to be healthy will return to the Kidd and Sailors moving off the ship will go into isolation.
The Navy is providing a resiliency counselor, team of chaplains and psychologist for Sailors in isolation and quarantine. The Navy has also established a 24-hour roving patrol to ensure that Sailors who are sequestered off the ship are adhering to all public health and safety policies, the Navy said.
USS Kidd Sailors have been told to immediately report any flu-like symptoms — a lesson learned from the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its Sailors, all of whom are now housed in Guam.
As of April 25, the entire crew of the Roosevelt had been tested for the virus, with 833 total positive and 4,105 negative results, the Navy reported. A small number of results were pending. Of the total cases, 112 Sailors have recovered and 4,273 Sailors have moved ashore, the Navy said.
Also, as of April 25, two assigned to the Roosevelt were in U.S. Naval Hospital Guam under treatment for COVID-19 symptoms. One Sailor from the Roosevelt died there earlier this month from complications of the infection, the Navy reported.