USS Nimitz Puts to Sea After 27-Day Quarantine

USS Nimitz under way in Puget Sound, April 27 (USN)

Published Apr 28, 2020 9:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

The carrier USS Nimitz has departed Naval Base Kitsap to begin at-sea training, ending a 27-day quarantine period intended to eliminate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on board. 

Nimitz experienced a "very small number" of coronavirus cases earlier this month, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten (USAF) told the press on April 9. The sailors affected were isolated on board. U.S. 3rd Fleet confirmed that two Nimitz sailors had confirmed or potential cases of COVID-19 - one who was away from the vessel on leave and tested positive, and one who had been on board and whose test results were inconclusive. (Citing Navy officials, Politico reports a different account, asserting that the second individual experienced symptoms and later tested positive.) 

The second individual was placed into isolation, along with 15 people who came into close contact. In addition, all contractors and visitors were carefully screened before boarding, all crewmembers were quarantined for at least 14 days, and all were tested for COVID-19 before the ship departed the pier. With these steps completed, Nimitz got under way from Bremerton on April 27. 

The same standard applies to other vessels in the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. All sailors aboard the carrier's escorts - the warships USS Princeton, USS John Paul Jones, USS Sterrett and USS Ralph Johnson - also have to quarantine for at least 14 day and complete COVID-19 testing before getting underway. 

“Dealing with the challenges of the COVID pandemic has been difficult, so I’m very pleased that our mitigation efforts have put us in a position to get underway,” said Capt. Max Clark, Nimitz's commanding officer. “We are all looking forward to training and operating again. I give the crew all the credit. From the beginning, they have done all that I and Navy leadership have asked them to do - face coverings, social distancing, continuous ship sanitization, testing and periods of quarantine; all executed with precision and professionalism."

USS Kidd arrives in San Diego

The destroyer USS Kidd has arrived at Naval Base San Diego, where she will berth in order to provide medical care for ill crewmembers and begin a process of disinfection. Kidd has 47 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board. 

Most of Kidd's crew will disembark for either quarantine or isolation. Crewmembers from Kidd who have tested negative will be quarantined for a period of observation, including daily visits from health professionals to monitor for symptoms. A small group of those who have tested negative will remain on the ship for essential services and deep-cleaning. To ensure the crew's compliance with quarantine orders, the Navy has established a 24-hour roving patrol.

In an important lesson-learned from the outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Kidd's sailors have been instructed to immediately report any flu-like symptoms, even if they have previously tested negative. Among the Roosevelt sailors who were quarantined in Guam, there were some asymptomatic positives, and several of these individuals initially returned false-negative test results for COVID-19. When they later developed symptoms, these sailors were isolated to prevent further spread.

While most of Kidd's crew is in quarantine, some crewmembers will begin the careful task of sanitizing the vessel. The cleaning process begins with closing off and vacating compartments for seven days – four days longer than the minimum recommended by the CDC. The ship will be cleaned one compartment at a time, with access to each space restricted. The process is expected to take about two weeks. At that time, the confirmed healthy sailors will return to the ship.