French Carrier Returns to Port With 40 Suspected COVID-19 Cases

Charles de Gaulle (file image)

Published Apr 8, 2020 9:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

About 40 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, according to the French Navy. The vessel and her 1,700 crewmembers have cut their deployment short by two weeks in order to return to Toulon, France.

The Charles de Gaulle has significant medical capabilities on board should crewmembers need hospitalization, including ventilators and medical imaging systems. As a carrier, she is also well-equipped for medevac operations if required. To bolster the onboard response to the outbreak, the French Navy has dispatched a team of specialists to the carrier with test equipment to investigate the suspected cases and to help reduce any spread. 

The sailors with COVID-19 symptoms have been isolated and are not seriously ill, the service said. Their health is being carefully monitored. 

The Charles de Gaulle, France's only aircraft carrier, is returning from her first deployment to the eastern North Sea in ten years. Prior to that, she was deployed to the Mediterranean in January for the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. 

Multiple U.S. carriers affected

The U.S. Navy is dealing with a similar situation aboard the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is currently moored in Guam. Nearly 300 members of the Roosevelt's crew have tested positive for the virus, including her former commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier. The Roosevelt already accounts for more than half of the service's confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the count is likely to rise: lab tests have not yet been completed for 2,000 members of her 5,000-member crew.

The Navy has disembarked 2,300 Roosevelt crewmembers in order to reduce the risk of transmission and to allow thorough disinfection of the ship. The remaining crewmembers are carrying out the sanitizing process and seeing to the management of the ship's essential systems. 

The carrier USS Carl Vinson (in port at Bremerton) has also experienced a small number of coronavirus cases on board. Fox News has reported additional cases aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (in port at Yokosuka), though the account has not been confirmed. 

Following media reports of a coronavirus scare aboard the USS Nimitz, which is currently preparing to deploy from Bremerton, the U.S. Navy said that one sailor aboard the vessel had been removed as a precautionary measure and has since tested negative. "There are no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on board USS Nimitz at this time," said 3rd Fleet spokesman Cdr. John Fage in a statement. "Sailors that had been in close contact with the individual were also removed from the ship as a precaution and placed into quarantine. That sailor remains off the ship."

Effective Friday, the U.S. Navy has ceased reporting the unit details and locations of new coronavirus cases, and is providing only daily aggregate numbers.