Virus-Hit Navy Destroyer Pulls Into Port, but All 90 Ships at Sea Are COVID-19-Free

April 29, 2020 Updated: April 29, 2020

The USS Kidd destroyer has pulled into a naval base in San Diego, five days after becoming the second Navy ship to be hit with a COVID-19 outbreak while on deployment at sea.

“All sailors will be isolated off-ship with twice-daily medical screenings,” said an April 28 Navy statement. “Crew members who have tested negative will enter quarantine for a period of observation, to include daily visits from military health professionals to monitor for symptoms.”

“Finally, a small contingent of negative tested sailors will remain on the ship for essential services and deep-cleaning.” Those sailors will be outfitted with PPE and follow social distancing rules.

According to the Navy’s official blog, 63 percent of the Kidd’s crew has been tested, with 64 positive results so far from the crew of around 35o.

Testing on the nearly 5,000 crew members aboard the Theodore Roosevelt has now been completed, with almost 1 in 5 testing positive. “Efforts are underway to test and re-man the ship,” according to the Navy.

The nuclear carrier has been sidelined for a month in Guam—although military leaders have said all along it could deploy quickly if needed in the pacific.

According to the Navy’s latest update, “Of the more than 90 U.S. Navy ships at sea around the world today, none have active COVID-19 cases.”

“Thirteen ships that previously had one or more active cases of COVID-19 while in port have zero cases today.”

The deep-cleaning of the Kidd is expected to take two weeks, according to the Navy, “at which time the confirmed healthy sailors will return to the ship, and the off-going sailors will begin their quarantine.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd
The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd in the Pacific Ocean in a photo made available by the U.S. Navy on May 18, 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/U.S. Navy via AP)

“The cleaning process begins with spaces being vacated for seven days—four days longer than the minimum recommended by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. The ship will be cleaned room-by-room, with access to each space restricted,” said the statement.

The Navy has learned lessons from handling the outbreak aboard the Roosevelt, according to officials.

“USS Kidd sailors have been instructed to immediately report any ILI [influenza like illness] symptoms to help prevent spread of the virus—an important lesson the Navy learned from USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors who were quarantined in Guam.”

The Pentagon is prioritizing making sure crews are virus-free when they head out on deployment, which means concentrating testing and quarantine in the time window just before deployment.

The carrier USS Nimitz set sail for training on April 27—but only after a 27-day quarantine period and testing all of the crew.

“Dealing with the challenges of the COVID pandemic has been difficult,” said Capt. Max Clark, commanding officer, in a statement. “I give the crew all the credit. From the beginning, they have done all that I and Navy leadership have asked them to do—face coverings, social distancing, continuous ship sanitization, testing, and periods of quarantine—all executed with precision and professionalism.”

The Nimitz will pick up the baton from the Harry S. Truman, which has remained at sea despite coming to the end of its deployment, to ensure two U.S. aircraft carriers were at sea, COVID-19-free.

Military leaders continue to emphasize that U.S. military readiness is high, despite the pandemic, warning adversaries not to test them.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey