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Navy working to isolate, test sailors amid COVID-19 outbreak on USS Roosevelt

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, shown here as transits the South China Sea March 16, has docked in Guam to test sailors amid a coronavirus outbreak on the ship. Photo by Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, shown here as transits the South China Sea March 16, has docked in Guam to test sailors amid a coronavirus outbreak on the ship. Photo by Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy

April 1 (UPI) -- The Navy and local government officials in Guam are working to isolate and test crew members on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is currently docked in the territory amid a coronavirus outbreak, officials said Wednesday.

According to acting Navy secretary Thomas B. Modly, nearly 1,000 sailors stationed on the Roosevelt have left the ship for testing and quarantining so far.

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Of those, 93 sailors have tested positive for the virus, 593 have tested negative and 87 others were showing symptoms linked with the virus, Modly has told reporters.

On Tuesday media outlets reported on a letter written the captain of the Roosevelt in which he pleaded with Navy officials for more resources to help contain a coronavirus outbreak on the vessel, which had been docked in Guam for several days so its 5,000-strong crew could be tested for the virus.

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As a result, Navy officials said Wednesday they are developing plans to get sailors off the vessel as soon as possible and quarantine them in appropriately isolated quarters.

That effort includes asking the local government of Guam, which is a U.S. territory, for spare hotels.

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"We're saying the same thing," U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. John Aquilino told the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on ship Capt. Brett Crozier's letter. "I think his concern is with the pace we get sailors off. Not that we're not going to get sailors off. I just want to be really clear, we will have to leave some number of sailors on that ship as we go through testing, quarantine and isolation to generate completely COVID-free sailors."

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According to Aquilino, the current plan is to rotate groups of sailors off the ship for 14-day quarantines and testing, then have the healthy sailors return from quarantine to relieve individuals on board -- a plan that would keep the Roosevelt docked for a month.

Modly told reporters Wednesday that it was "disappointing" that Crozier implied the Navy was not taking care of its personnel, but said he was not likely to be punished for writing the letter.

Both Modly and the Navy's chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, admitted there was a communication breakdown between Crozier and top Pentagon brass.

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"The misunderstanding perhaps was the requirement of the speed to get people off the ship," Gilday told reporters Wednesday. "In order to act on a requirement, we have to clearly understand the requirement."

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