Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. was the first active-duty member of the armed services to die from the CCP virus, which he contracted aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Over 4,000 sailors have now been pulled off the Roosevelt as part of a systematic evacuation and disinfection. At least 655 crew members had tested positive for the CCP virus by April 16, with just over 5 percent still to be tested.
Six sailors are currently hospitalized with one currently still in intensive care due to difficulty breathing.
Thacker passed away on April 13, but his identity was withheld until April 16 by the Navy out of respect for next of kin.
His spouse, also a member of the armed services, was by his side when he passed away.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, The Roosevelt’s commanding officer, in a statement. “Our number one priority continues to be the health and well-being of all members of the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group and we remain steadfast in our resolve against the spread of this virus.”
The Navy is currently investigating how the outbreak began on the ship.
Many have pointed to a now-controversial port call in Vietnam.
However, Navy officials have told media outlets that they have not found conclusive evidence of a link between the outbreak and that port call. The outbreak began 15 days after the carrier left the port in Vietnam. The virus is thought to have a 14-day incubation period.
Navy officials are now considering the possibility that the virus came aboard through the regular supply deliveries to plane, known as carrier onboard deliveries (CODs) from the Philippines or Japan.
Officials said first cases were among members of the carrier’s air wing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The decision to allow sailors off the ship in Vietnam isn’t the only controversy.
Captain Brett Crozier was dismissed as commander by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over a leaked memo that highlighted the plight of the carrier.
That memo, claimed Modly, had been sent with the knowledge that it would be leaked.
After a barrage of criticism, Modly flew out to Guam to explain himself to the crew. But his speech, during which he lambasted the captain and crew, was recorded and leaked, sparking more anger. After initially refusing to apologize, Modly abruptly resigned.
Despite currently being temporarily sidelined in Guam due to an outbreak onboard, the Roosevelt could still quickly be deployed if needed, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.
“The only significant COVID-19 issues we are having on any of the ships, at least reported up to today, is the Theodore Roosevelt,” he said during a briefing on April 14. “The other ships that are at sea are COVID-free.”
A single sailor from the carrier USS Nimitz—which is currently docked and preparing for deployment—had tested positive, he said. “But he was out of state, and he remains out of state to this day. A second sailor displayed the symptoms, and that sailor was placed into isolation and is not on the ship.”
The Nimitz is set to pick up the baton from the Harry S. Truman, which has remained at sea despite coming to the end of its deployment, to keep the crew safe and to keep a carrier group ready.
The decision to keep the Truman strike group at sea in the Atlantic was made to ensure that the Navy has at least two carriers at sea and ready to go at a moment’s notice, said Milley.