The captain of USS Theodore Roosevelt, shown here during a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific earlier in March, sent a letter this week pleading for more resources to help contain an outbreak of coronavirus among its sailors. Photo by Nicholas V. Huynh/U.S. Navy
March 31 (UPI) -- The captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt is pleading with the U.S. Navy for more resources to help contain a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship and avoid possible deaths.
The aircraft carrier docked in Guam last week so its crew of 5,000 sailors could be tested for the novel coronavirus.
At the time, 23 members of its crew had tested positive for the virus.
On Wednesday, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told reporters that three crew had tested positive for the virus.
Now more than 100 sailors are infected, and according to Capt. Brett Crozier, in a four-page letter first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the situation is rapidly deteriorating.
According to Crozier, only a small contingent of soldiers have been off-boarded, and most remain aboard the ship, where it's impossible to follow recommendations for 14-day quarantines and social distancing.
"Due to a warship's inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this," Crozier wrote. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating."
He asked the Navy for "compliant quarantine rooms" for his entire crew in Guam "as soon as possible."
"This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do," Crozier wrote. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset -- our Sailors."
Crozier requested the majority of the crew be removed from the ship and isolated for two weeks while 10 percent of the servicemen stay aboard to run the reactor plan, sanitize the ship, ensure security and provide for contingency response to emergencies.
"This is a necessary risk," Crozier wrote. "It will enable the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our sailors."
However, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS News' Norah O'Donnell that mass disembarkment won't be necessary.
"I don't think we're are that point," he said. "We are moving a lot of supplies and assistance, medical assistance, out to the carrier in Guam."
Late Tuesday, Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief James Honea published a video message on Facebook to tell their sailors that they doing all they can to ensure their safety.
"During this specific difficult time, I am a hundred percent confident that the Pacific Fleet sailors are the right team to fight our way through this problem," Aquilino said, without mentioning the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
According to military.com, the first positive cases aboard the Roosevelt emerged after the ship made a port call in Vietnam in early March, despite warnings that the virus was likely to sweep through the Asia-Pacific region.
Crozier's letter comes as the number of reported cases among military personnel climbs -- with more than 1,000 total cases as of Monday -- and recruiters have called for the closure of boot camps amid the pandemic.
Esper urged commanders this week to keep quiet about the number of infections among military personnel, saying adversaries could exploit information regarding high numbers of cases at specific bases or facilities.
A Monday statement from Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said the Pentagon would "assiduously continue to make the public aware of the presence of any potential new COVID-19 outbreaks within our base communities" but would not report the aggregate number "individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands."