Four more sailors from the virus-hit carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt are in a hospital being treated for COVID-19, with one in intensive care.
The announcement by the Navy on Tuesday comes one day after the death of a crew member assigned to the carrier—the first active military member killed by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“Four Sailors assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt are in U.S. Naval Hospital Guam being treated for COVID-19 symptoms,” said the Navy in its official blog on Tuesday. “One of those Sailors is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for increased observation due to shortness of breath.”
The carrier is currently in Guam, where it docked for a routine stop last month before it was sidelined for the entire crew to be pulled off and systematically tested and quarantined while the ship was cleaned.
“As of today, 93% of USS Theodore Roosevelt crewmembers have been tested for COVID-19, with 589 positive and 3,922 negative results,” said the Navy statement. “4,024 Sailors have moved ashore.”
On Monday, the Navy announced that the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group in Atlantic will remain at sea, despite finishing deployment, to keep the crew out of the reach of COVID-19 and ready for action.
“The ship is entering a period in which it needs to be ready to respond and deploy at any time,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander U.S. 2nd Fleet said in a statement. “Normally we can do that pierside, but in the face of COVID-19, we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea.”
The USS Harry S. Truman has already completed two back to back deployments, according to UNI News, and is now the only on-call carrier strike group on the East Coast.
“After completing a successful deployment we would love nothing more than to be reunited with our friends and families,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Loiselle, commander of Carrier Strike Group 8, in a statement.
“We recognize that these are unique circumstances and the responsible thing to do is to ensure we are able to answer our nation’s call while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors.”
The Navy is better placed to absorb the uncertainty because of a shift toward a more flexible deployment strategy brought in two years ago to keep adversaries guessing.
A Warning to Adversaries
The plight of the USS Theodore Roosevelt was thrown into the spotlight by a controversial series of events which included the dismissal of the captain and the resignation of the Navy secretary.
Pentagon leaders say that despite the carrier being out of action, in aggregate the readiness of the military remains undiminished by the pandemic, although they admitted that it could degrade in the coming months.
“If our adversaries think this is our moment of weakness, they are dangerously wrong,” said Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist on April 9. “To those who wish us harm, make no mistake: even with the challenges that this disease has brought to our shores, the Department of Defense stands ready to meet any threat and defend our nation.”
Carrier strike groups are a key part of U.S. power projection.
In the event of a conflict, the U.S. Navy could quickly shake off the difficulties of having at the one carrier sidelined, defense analysts previously told The Epoch Times. If more carriers were to be hit, however, it would begin to dent U.S. influence in the region in the medium term.
Chinese naval activity in the region has continued despite the pandemic. However, experts previously told The Epoch Times that it is not possible to asses the impact of the pandemic on their military strength. The impact is hidden by long-running military secrecy, the fact that Beijing’s data on the virus cannot be trusted, and the lower value that the CCP places on the lives of troops who might be hit by an outbreak.
Over the weekend a Chinese carrier, the Liaoning, sailed close to Taiwan and through a 150-mile wide strait of international water between two of Japan’s islands—closely watched by Japanese and Taiwanese military. Chinese military officials said it was a routine exercise. One state-sanctioned media organization, however, hailed it as proof that China’s Navy was unbowed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
At the end of last week, the USS America, an 840-foot amphibious assault ship, teamed up with a Japanese destroyer for exercises in the East China Sea, according to a Navy statement on Tuesday.
LHA 6 class ships like the America are increasingly being adopted as a mini aircraft carriers—thanks to the next generation F-35 B stealth jet, and its signature vertical take-off and landing.