COVID-19 Cases Identified Aboard Carrier USS Ronald Reagan

ronald reagan
Flight operations aboard USS Ronald Reagan in the Philippine Sea on August 27, the day the cases were identified (USN)

Published Sep 4, 2020 6:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

USS Ronald Reagan recently identified a "small number" of COVID-19 cases on board, the U.S. Navy confirmed Friday.

Reagan's crew identified an unspecified number of positive cases on August 27 while the vessel was under way in the Philippine Sea. According to imagery posted to defense media database DVIDS, Reagan is still under way in the same region, and a 7th Fleet spokesperson told Stars & Stripes that there are currently no positive cases on board. If sustained, this success would make Reagan one of the few vessels to ever experience an underway coronavirus outbreak and fully eliminate it without entering port or halting operations. 

"[Positive cases] received immediate medical treatment and [were] transported off the ship – no one is hospitalized,” a 7th Fleet spokesperson told USNI in a statement. “The ship is taking aggressive action and applying all mitigations to protect the health of our sailors and stop the spread of the virus in accordance with CDC and Navy guidance as we continue to identify and eliminate any potential vectors of the virus.”

Reagan was last in port in Guam, where her crew were allowed to disembark for a "safe haven" shore leave in a designated area of the pier and an adjacent beach. The positive cases were identified the day after she left port. 

The Navy is still investigating the source of the infections, which occurred despite the intensive prevention protocols that the service has deployed to keep its sailors healthy and its ships operational. The "safe haven" liberty is a key part of this strategy, allowing sailors an opportunity to stretch their legs without the risk of COVID-19 exposure from the shoreside population. Except for a small number of people with duties related to the ship's arrival, no crewmembers may interact with other personnel outside of marked liberty areas during a safe haven call. USS Blue Ridge, USS Bunker Hill, USS Nimitz, USS Sterett, USS Ralph Johnson and USS Rafael Peralta have all completed similar liberty calls at Guam in recent months. 

The outbreak aboard USS Ronald Reagan is the ship's second this year. Along with USS Nimitz and USS Carl Vinson, Reagan reportedly experienced a small number of cases during the first months of the pandemic, though not at the scale of the outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt. The wave of infection aboard Roosevelt forced the ship to undergo a rigorous disembarkation, isolation and sanitization process in Guam. Over 1,100 of Roosevelt's 4,500 sailors ultimately tested positive for the disease.