U.S. Navy Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Kyle Hernandez, from Denton, Texas, assigned to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron 31, disinfects a berthing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt with a multi-surface sanitizer Sunday. Photo by Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy
April 16 (UPI) -- The USS Theodore Roosevelt is engaged in a cleaning effort the crew has dubbed "bleach-a-palooza," with 80 percent of the aircraft carrier scrubbed so far, in an attempt to contain a coronavirus outbreak on the ship.
More than 600 sailors aboard the Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19, and one 41-year-old petty officer has died.
Five others have been hospitalized, with one being admitted to intensive care Tuesday.
The ship docked in Guam at the end of March to test and isolate sailors amid an outbreak some military officials now believe was the result of the ship's aircraft operations, rather than a port visit to Vietnam earlier in the year.
"We have two tasks, taking care of Sailors and cleaning the ship," Cmdr. Jennifer Huck, Theodore Roosevelt's combat directions center officer, who was appointed as the initial officer in charge, said in a statement on Thursday. "We are focused on taking care of the Sailor's health and ensuring the ship's crew is following all centers for disease control and prevention guidelines to include personal protective equipment. Our medical department is doing great work testing, isolating and treating Sailors. We are going to thoroughly clean the ship. We have already started and are about finished."
According to the Navy, the ship has assembled a roving cleaning team that is constantly transiting the ship, cleaning each way, and each day begins and ends with a bleaching spree.
"The team's mission is to fully sanitize the ship," said Cmdr. Chad Hollinger, Theodore Roosevelt's weapon's officer, who is leading the cleaning crew. "To complete the mission we are going to clean this ship from top-to-bottom and forward-to-aft to create a clean zone for everyone coming back to the ship, so we can get back to business."
According to Hollinger, the crew -- using large area sprayers -- has cleaned more than 2,000 spaces and 80 percent of the ship and is optimistic they will be able to contain the virus.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we are going to get there," Hollinger said.
Defense secretary Mark Esper reiterated Thursday that the Navy may reinstate the ship's Captain, Brett Crozier, who was dismissed from his role after pleading with the Navy for more help containing the outbreak, a move that ultimately led to Navy Acting Secretary Thomas B. Modly's resignation.