At least a dozen service members aboard the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego have tested positive for the virus, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea is investigating several suspected cases, the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is based in the Kingdom of Bahrain and oversees Navy activities in operations in areas including the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, said in a statement.
All positive cases on the USS San Diego have been isolated on board and the ship “remains in a restricted COVID bubble,” the 5th Fleet said, adding that the ship has a “robust medical capability,” including embarked medical staff, operating rooms, a 24-bed hospital ward and additional overflow capacity, and is coordinating with Bahrain’s health authority for medical support.
Philippine Sea is still out at sea, but is expected to pull into port to conduct further testing of all those who have been possibly exposed, the 5th Fleet said. The port location will not be disclosed due to operational security.
“Medical health professionals are conducting a thorough contact investigation to determine the source of COVID-19 aboard the ships and whether any other personnel may have been exposed,” the U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs office said in the statement.
This isn’t the first time the Navy has dealt with CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreaks on ships operating overseas. According to an October 2020 message from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, more than 190 vessels have had “at least one case onboard” by that time.
“In the majority of those case, aggressive early action to isolate, quarantine, contact trace, and strict health protection mitigation measures has contained the incidence rate onboard to well less than five percent, allowing those ships to fight through and remain in mission,” said Gilday, the nation’s top naval officer.
In mid-March 2020, an outbreak occurred onboard of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt after a completed port call to Da Nang, Vietnam earlier that month, sickening more than 1,200 of the 5,000-men crew and killing one sailor.
The outbreak on Theodore Roosevelt also led to the firing of the ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, who himself tested positive for the virus. Crozier was removed from command after he he wrote a letter asking the Navy for help in handling the outbreak and sent it via non-secure, unclassified email outside the chain of command, causing the letter to be obtained by the media.