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New Cases of COVID-19 Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

new cases of virus on carrier Theodore Roosevelt
USS Theodore Roosevelt is underway - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier

Published Oct 19, 2020 3:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Navy officials confirmed that a small number of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for the COVID-19 virus late last week. This is the second outbreak aboard the same aircraft carrier and will be a test of the U.S. Navy’s protocols for the mitigation and control of the virus implemented after the prior incident aboard the Theodore Roosevelt.

According to the Navy, the sailors followed procedure self-identifying that they were experiencing symptoms during a training cruise off the coast of California. The sailors were reportedly isolated and tested aboard the carrier. According to media reports, two sailors tested positive and were evacuated on October 15 back to base in California, where they were placed in quarantine. Also, the vessel conducted a contact tracing program on board. 

In a statement issued to the media, the Navy reported, "Theodore Roosevelt is aggressively applying all mitigation measures in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Navy guidance in order to protect the health of our sailors and stop the spread of the virus as we continue to identify and eliminate any of the virus's potential vectors."

The Theodore Roosevelt had returned to San Diego in July at the end of its previous deployment which had caused world-wide attention after it became the first U.S. Navy vessel to suffer a widespread outbreak of the virus. The carrier was at sea at the time, but later arrived in Guam, where the crew was placed in isolation onshore. 

Between a fourth and a fifth of the crew aboard the carrier, or more than 1,000 officers and sailors, were believed to have contracted the virus during that outbreak. The Navy was criticized for its handling of the situation which became a media sensation that led to her captain being relived on his command and Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly to resign after a speech he made to the crew of the carrier became public. One sailor died from the virus during the outbreak and treatment on Gaum.

The Theodore Roosevelt remained in Gaum for nearly two months only returning to sea in late May and active duty in June. As a result of that outbreak and other incidents, the U.S. Navy also announced that it was shifting its policies and protocol seeking to prevent further outbreaks of the virus aboard its ships. Among the steps that were to be taken before deployment was testing of sailors and a two-week quarantine. 

Because the Theodore Roosevelt was on a short-term training exercise, it has been reported that not all of the pre-deployment protocols were implemented. Aboard the ship, they follow safeguards designed to prevent the spread of the virus despite the close working and living conditions for the sailors.

Since the outbreak aboard the Theodore Roosevelt followed by a second one aboard the USS Kidd in the spring, the U.S. Navy has reported several additional isolated cases of the virus but no widespread outbreaks. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that navy-wide 10,888 sailors have contracted Covid-19, according to the Navy statistics.

The Navy does not comment on future deployment plans for its vessels. The Theodore Roosevelt is currently based in San Diego but it has been rumored that she would begin a new overseas deployment before the end of this year.