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Coronavirus isn’t affecting military readiness, top officers say at conference

Three sea service chiefs address WEST 2020 in San Diego at town hall Monday morning. (From left) Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz, Navy Adm. Mike Gilday, Marine Corps Gen. David Berger and moderator Robert Work. (Andrew Dyer/ San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

The spreading coronavirus outbreak so far has not affected military readiness, according to top-ranking officers in the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps who spoke at the WEST 2020 conference in San Diego on Monday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz each downplayed the effect of the virus on their services after an Army soldier stationed in Korea became the first U.S. service member to test positive for the virus last week.

Gilday, Berger and Schultz each said no service members in their branches have tested positive for the virus. An Army spokesman confirmed the soldier was, as of Monday, the only service member to test positive.

However, the spreading contagion is having an effect on operations, the chiefs said.

“The coronavirus itself manifests in different ways,” Gilday said. “What we’re seeing across the combatant commands is a variety of steps (to mitigate the effect). We’ve prohibited travel up in northern Italy due to the concentration of the outbreak there. Same thing in certain spots in Asia.”

Gilday said the Navy is scrutinizing port visits for its ships and scaling back some naval exercises. He did not mention any specific ports or ships but said sailors are being screened coming and going from ships in port.

“We are testing crews before they go ashore (and) testing crews before they come back,” Gilday said. “We trained our med personnel to be able to identify the symptoms, test, then isolate, quarantine, until you confirm whether or not it’s an active case.”

Schultz said the Coast Guard is helping screen commercial ships coming to the U.S. for signs of the virus.

“We’re working with shippers. We’re working with crew members,” he said.

Berger said the Marines scaled back exercises in Asia, but the Corps has not been affected otherwise.

“So far, not a big impact,” he said. He said U.S. bases, including Marine Corps Station Miramar, responded well when tasked with housing quarantined American citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — in February.


© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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