Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Replacement U.S. Navy personnel were assigned to the USS Essex to fill in for an undisclosed number of crewmen ill with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Navy confirmed.
The amphibious assault ship left San Diego in early December with a contingent of U.S. Marines for an exercise, and returned on Monday. An unidentified sailor of the USS Essex said in an interview that replacement sailors, many from the USS Bonhomie Richard, came aboard after their arrival by hovercraft.
The USS Bonhomme Richard was devastated by a five-day fire in July in San Diego's naval harbor. The blaze sent 63 people, including 40 sailors and 23 civilians, to the hospital for smoke inhalation and caused San Diego air pollution to spike dangerously.
In November the Navy announced that the ship will be scrapped.
"Personnel assigned to the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/5th Marine Regiment have tested positive for Coronavirus Disease2019 (COVID-19)," Navy spokesperson Lt. Nicole Schwegman said in a statement.
"Sometimes, in order to meet manning and training requirements, we cross-deck sailors, operationally hold prospective losses, utilize reservists or divert prospective gain sailors to higher priority units," she said.
Naval Medical Center San Diego received its first shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines this week, the Navy reported.