"Small Number" of COVID Cases Aboard Carrier USS George H.W. Bush

carrier uSS George H.W. Bush in drydock at NNSY (USN)
USS George H.W. Bush in drydock at NNSY (USN)

Published Jul 30, 2020 8:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has confirmed that a "small number" of sailors aboard the carrier USS George H.W. Bush have tested positive for COVID-19. The affected individuals have been isolated in shoreside housing and are receiving regular medical care until they recover, according to the Navy.

USS Bush has been undergoing maintenance at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) for the past year and a half, and she is not scheduled to sail again until next year. The outbreak is not expected to affect operations.

Norfolk and the broader Hampton Roads region have experienced a rising number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The city of Norfolk reported 143 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to more than 3,000 over the course of the pandemic.

“USS George H.W. Bush is actively enforcing physical distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” a Navy spokesperson told defense media. “Norfolk Naval Shipyard is conducting temperature checks and screening all personnel with a medical systems questionnaire, and if required, referring sailors with symptoms for medical evaluation.”

The carrier USS Harry S. Truman also pulled into Norfolk Naval Shipyard three weeks ago for a brief repair period. USS Truman and the COVID-affected USS Bush were slated to share the same pier at Norfolk Naval Shipyard this summer - the first time two carriers would be side-by-side at the facility, according to the Navy. 

Carriers are densely populated, compartmentalized vessels, and like other ships with these characteristics they have proven vulnerable to rapidly-spreading COVID outbreaks. The French Navy carrier Charles de Gaulle experienced a coronavirus outbreak during exercises in the North Sea in April, and more than 1,000 members of her crew (about two-thirds of those on board) ultimately tested positive. The USS Theodore Roosevelt sustained a COVID outbreak after a port call in Vietnam, and 1,150 out of her 4,800 crewmembers tested positive, forcing an extended disembarkation and quarantine period in Guam.