US Coast Guard Cutter Returns to Base due to COVID-19 Outbreak

Coast Guard cutter suspends deployment due to COVID-19
Stratton - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Timothy M. Black

Published Nov 18, 2020 8:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Three weeks after departing on its latest counter-narcotics patrol, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter has been forced to suspend its mission and return to base due to an outbreak of the coronavirus aboard the ship. The cutter, which has a strong track record on previous deployments, will remain in port while the crew is quarantined.

According to a report from the U.S. Coast Guard, after 11 crew members tested positive for COVID-19 during the deployment, the cutter Stratton returned to its homeport on November 18 at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California. The affected crew members reported mild symptoms and are receiving medical care. 

The cutter was met by Coast Guard medical staff, who conducted testing of the entire crew.  Following testing, the crew went into quarantine.  

"The crew's health and safety is my highest priority," said Capt. Bob Little, Stratton's commanding officer. "Stratton has a highly resilient crew, always dedicated to the mission.  Our mission today is to get healthy so we can continue our service to the nation."  

The Stratton departed Alameda on October 28 to begin a counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific.  Before getting underway, the Coast Guard reports that the crew underwent a restriction-of-movement period where members were required to self-quarantine and pass two COVID tests.  

On November 11 and 12, several crew members began to develop COVID symptoms and were administered rapid testing kits. After the diagnosis, all affected personnel and their close contacts were identified and quarantined.  The Coast Guard did not report if the vessel had made any port stops after departing California or if it had come in contact with any other crews.

“The safety of our people and the public remain my top priority,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area commander.  “We continue to perform all statutory missions while taking the necessary precautions to protect our members and the public. We are committed to maintaining our operational readiness and will continue to perform critical missions that protect our national interests, promote economic prosperity, and ensure public safety.” 

The cutter will continue to meet all inport watchstanding requirements while at homeport according to the Coast Guard.

In June, the Stratton returned from a 94-day counter-drug patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. During that deployment, the crew detected and interdicted five suspected drug smuggling vessels, detained 14 suspected drug smugglers. In total, they seized over 6,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $113 million. In addition, in June, they also offloaded 3,720 pounds of marijuana seized in known drug-transit zones by the Coast Guard and U.S. Navy along with five suspected drug smugglers.

According to the Coast Guard, the Stratton has advanced capabilities, including a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), an attached Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, and on the prior deployment embarked Law Enforcement Detachment from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team.