HONOLULU—Guam has seen hundreds of sailors from a COVID-19-stricken Navy aircraft carrier flood the island’s hotels for quarantine.
An outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt began in late March and has thrust the Navy into a leadership crisis after the ship’s commander distributed a letter urging faster action to protect his sailors that caused panic among sailors’ families.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly relieved Capt. Brett E. Crozier of his duties, and then himself resigned over the issue after public blowback over his message to the ship’s crew that was also leaked to the media.
This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. pic.twitter.com/FvfgOwuXw4
— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) April 7, 2020
The carrier has been docked in the U.S. territory for more than a week as the 4,865-person crew is tested for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, and moved ashore. More than 580 sailors have been confirmed infected. One was hospitalized Thursday in intensive care, said Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
More than 1,700 sailors who have tested negative are isolating in hotels, while the sick remain on base, Navy officials said, adding that strict safety measures have been enforced to prevent sailor contact with the local population.
Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, declined to identify the hotels being used by the Navy, but said as many as 10 have been set aside to house up to 4,000 sailors. Seven of them had already stopped taking reservations and seen a dramatic drop in visitors as airlines canceled flights, she said.
The sailors’ quarantine is actually benefiting some smaller hotels, Rhodes added. The Navy has taken over hotels with more than 300 rooms, and other guests have been moved to smaller properties that are struggling amid cancellations.
Rhodes said “necessary measures” are in place to safeguard the public.
Guam’s hotels frequently host military members, and the Department of Defense controls about a third of the island, which is 3,800 miles west of Honolulu and a crucial, strategic hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific.
Each sailor is staying in a room stocked with two weeks’ worth of linens, towels and water, Rhodes said. There is no contact with hotel workers, and only military police and medical teams can visit.
The Navy has sent masks, gloves, and other safety equipment to the hotels, where employees make food that military personnel deliver, Rhodes said.
Not including the sailors, Guam has 133 confirmed CCP virus cases and five deaths as of Saturday.
Officials are focused on stopping the spread of the virus, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said as she announced that sailors could stay in hotels.
“I know there will be a small chorus of cynics who will oppose this decision, but now is not the time for ‘us versus them,’” she told reporters April 1. “We can protect Guam while being humane to them.”
The Rev. Fran Hezel, parish priest at Santa Barbara Catholic Church in Dededo, Guam’s most populated village, said people likely aren’t that upset about the move.
People mostly are sympathetic because many in Guam are in the Navy or have relatives who are.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that Guam … has got as deep links with the military as it does with the Catholic faith,” he said.
For most, the CCP virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with other health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher. Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.