[Updated] Over 150 USS Theodore Roosevelt Sailors Test Positive

Credit: U.S. Navy
Credit: U.S. Navy

Published Apr 4, 2020 7:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

As of Sunday, 50 percent of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt crew had been tested for COVID-19, with 155 positive cases so far. So far there have been no hospitalizations.

1,825 Sailors have moved ashore to hotels in Guam.

The Commander of U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Bill Merz visited USS Theodore Roosevelt leadership in port at Naval Base Guam on April 5.

“Know that every day, regardless of what the challenge may be, my number one priority is to sustain the warfighting posture of 7th Fleet, and the most important element of this number one priority is the Sailors,” said Merz. “We simply cannot execute the mission of defending our interests, our friends, and our allies without the fighting spirit of the immensely capable men and women of this team.”

The ship arrived in Guam on March 27 for a scheduled port visit. Prior to the port visit three Sailors tested positive for COVID-19. The Navy is working closely with the Government of Guam and Joint Region Marianas to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to move Sailors safely off ship while continuing to maintain the vessel’s readiness to operate at sea.

U.S. 7th Fleet provides security alongside allies and partners throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet operates roughly 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has removed the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt from command, citing a written appeal for assistance with an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. The move came shortly after Commanding Officer Captain Brett E. Crozier wrote and distributed a letter calling for 4,000 members of the carrier's crew to be disembarked in Guam, thereby reducing the potential that they might be exposed to the virus. Crozier expressed concern that it would not be possible to contain the disease in the cramped environment of a modern warship. 

According to Acting Secretary Modly, the letter was sent via unsecured email to multiple recipients, and it was subsequently leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Modly accused Crozier of bypassing the chain of command, failing to ensure that the communication remained secure and undermining operational security. In addition, Modly claimed that the Navy was already acting on the captain's requests prior to the memo. 

On Saturday, U.S. president Donald Trump condemned the letter: "I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter."

The U.S. Navy notes that of more than 90 U.S. Navy ships deployed globally, none have COVID-19 cases on board.