ARLINGTON, Va. — In the first case of COVID-19 detected aboard a U.S. Navy ship at sea, three people quarantined with the coronavirus aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific Ocean have been evacuated for further treatment, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly announced.
“These are our first three cases of COVID-19 on a ship that’s deployed,” Modly told a Pentagon press briefing on March 24. “We’ve identified all those folks they’ve had contact with, and we’re quarantining them as well,” he added.
To date, 86 cases of COVID-19 have been detected among people connected with the Navy, including 57 uniformed personnel, 13 civilian employees, 11 dependents and five contractors, Modly said.
The Roosevelt left its last port of call, Da Nang, Vietnam, 15 days ago and has been self-quarantined at sea for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus, a procedure required of all Navy ships at sea since the disease began to spread, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said. He said it would be difficult to definitively link the outbreak on the Roosevelt to the port visit in Vietnam.
“We’ve had aircraft flying to and from the ship, so we just don’t want to say it was that particular port visit,” Gilday noted, adding that enhanced medical screening of the crew was done after leaving port.
The CNO said the three Sailors who tested positive for COVID-19 were not showing symptoms that would necessarily require hospitalization, only an elevated body temperature and body aches. However, leaders moved quickly to isolate them and evacuate them by aircraft to a Defense Department hospital in the Pacific region, which Gilday declined to identify.
“We’ve begun to take a look inside the ship, how we can isolate and contain as best we can,” Gilday said, adding there is testing capability on the ship, including the capacity to test for non-COVID but influenza-related incidents.
The CNO said Navy officials are working with the Roosevelt’s commander to assess the situation both medically and in terms of the carrier’s mission. “We’re taking this day-by-day, and we’re being very deliberate how we do it,” Gilday said. “We are not at a position right now to say we have to pull that ship in — or to take that ship off the front line.”
Given the busy comings and goings on an aircraft carrier, including helicopters delivering supplies and personnel, Gilday was asked if the Navy is planning any change in procedure for other deployed carriers. He said there were no specifics yet but noted that after every COVID-19 case is detected, practices and procedures are examined to determine “the dos and the don’ts we can quickly promulgate fleetwide.”