Commander Asks Pentagon to Pull Whole Crew Off Virus-Hit Aircraft Carrier

March 31, 2020 Updated: March 31, 2020

The captain of a U.S. aircraft carrier stricken by a COVID-19 outbreak has asked Pentagon leaders to pull most of the 5,000 crew off the ship, saying that adopting proper isolation measures aboard is impossible.

At least 36 sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, before the Navy stopped providing official breakdowns of numbers per ship. According to the Wall Street Journal, that number has now risen to over 70.

Commander Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a memo yesterday that the ship was on track to end up much worse than the cruise ship Diamond Princess where, despite interventions, seven people died from the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” wrote Crozier in the memo first published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

In his 4-page memo, Crozier said that there were two options: keep the sailors on board to maintain the nuclear-powered carrier on its expected war-footing (readiness), or take the crew off and disinfect.

The first option, he said would result in “losses to the virus.” In the event of war, going to war with the virus onboard made sense, he explained.”But in combat, we are willing to take certain risks,” he wrote.

“However, we are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”

In statements to the media, Navy officials said that Crozier had alerted superiors regarding “continuing challenges in isolating the virus.”

“Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer,” the Navy statement said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Epoch Times was directed by Navy officials to Pacific Public Fleet Affairs, which has yet to respond at the time of writing.

A U.S. Navy fighter jet approaching to land on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during Exercise Malabar 2015 about 150 miles off Chennai, India, on Oct. 17, 2015. The U.S. Pacific Fleet is smaller than it was in the 1990s, helping fuel a debate about whether the U.S. has enough ships to meet challenges posed by fast-growing and increasingly assertive Chinese naval forces. (AP Photo/Arun Sankar K.)
A U.S. Navy fighter jet approaching to land on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during Exercise Malabar 2015 about 150 miles off Chennai, India, on Oct. 17, 2015. (Arun Sankar K./AP Photo)

The Roosevelt is currently docked in Guam, where it has effectively been quarantined while the whole crew is tested for the CCP virus.

Crozier said the carrier unable to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing. Close quarters, shared meals, and bathroom spaces are “most conducive” to the spread of the virus, he said.

“With the exceptions of a handful of senior officer staterooms, none of the berthing onboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation,” Capt. Crozier wrote.

He compared the situation with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where 619 people were infected despite the removal of infected passengers and onboard quarantine of non-ill passengers.  That number could have been reduced to 76 with early evacuation, claimed one paper cited by Crozier.

Crozier said that the Diamon Princess was able to isolate people more effectively than was possible aboard the Roosevelt because the cruise ship has higher a number of individual accommodations.

Crozier called on the Pentagon to provide “quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.”

He said that off-ship lodging was needed for over 4,000 crew, with a skeleton crew manning the nuclear reactor plant and sanitizing the ship.

673 service members have so far tested positive for the CCP virus. The Department of Defense announced over the weekend the first death of a U.S. service member–a member of the reservist National Guard forces who was not on active duty when he was infected.

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