The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman follows the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower while transiting the Arabian Sea on March 21. Photo by Brandon C. Cole/U.S. Navy
April 15 (UPI) -- Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said Wednesday that the Navy should bring all its ships into port and quarantine the majority of the crews while the vessels undergo a deep clean in order to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks similar to the one that has sidelined the USS Roosevelt.
Mabus' recommendation comes after the Pentagon and the Navy announced a decision to keep surge carrier forces at sea due to the pandemic.
During an interview on the podcast Pod Save the World, Mabus recommended the Navy bring ships to port, offload most of the crew, sanitize the ship and quarantine crews for two weeks.
Once ships are reboarded, they should not leave the ship "until this crisis is mitigated," said Mabus, who led the Navy from 2009 to 2017.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday that the Truman Carrier Strike Group would stay at sea at least until the Nimitz group is ready to deploy.
"We made a decision, the [Secretary of Defense] made a decision and the Navy made a decision to keep the Harry S. Truman at sea so that we had at least two carriers at sea at a moment's notice," Milley said Tuesday.
The USS Nimitz, which has had two sailors test positive for COVID-19, is nearing the end of a 14-day pier-side isolation period in Bremerton, Wash., before heading to sea for pre-deployment training.
Its escorts, command staff and Carrier Air Wing 17 are also observing a 14-day isolation period in California before the elements of the group begin coming together later in April, USNI News reported.
On Monday Stars & Stripes reported that the Navy has the highest number of coronavirus cases at 1,056.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was docked in Guam in March due to an outbreak on the ship, has reported 585 cases of the virus and one death.
Milley's announcement comes on the heels of a similar announcement from the US 2nd Fleet.
"The ship is entering a period in which it needs to be ready to respond and deploy at any time," Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the 2nd Fleet, said Monday. "Normally we can do that pierside, but in the face of [the coronavirus pandemic], we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea."
Navy officials said Monday that the branch will continue to evaluate the carrier strike group's situation and update sailors and their families in about three weeks.