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Navy testing all 5,000 crew on aircraft carrier after rise in coronavirus cases

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) arrives at Naval Base Guam Feb. 7, 2020. Theodore Roosevelt and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinkney (DDG 91) are in Guam for a port visit during their scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
March 26, 2020

The deployed U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is turning back from its position in the Philippine Sea and heading to port in Guam to test its entire crew for coronavirus after the ship confirmed several cases of the virus while at sea.

The entire crew of the aircraft carrier will now be tested, acting Secretary of the U.S. Navy Thomas Modly said Thursday in a Pentagon press briefing.

The Navy initially identified three sailors with coronavirus aboard the USS Roosevelt and later flew those sailors off the ship to receive medical attention at a military hospital. In his Thursday remarks, Modly confirmed five more sailors had since tested positive and were evacuated.

“We found several more cases onboard the ship. We are in the process now of testing 100 percent of the crew of that ship to ensure that we are able to contain whatever spread might have occurred there on the ship,” Modly said. “But I also want to emphasize that the ship is operationally capable to do its mission if required to do so.”

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U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and some other larger U.S. warships reportedly do have the capacity to run some of the coronavirus diagnostic tests, though their testing capacity is limited.

Modly said the aircraft carrier will pull in pierside to Guam, but the crew will not be permitted to leave the ship, other than on pierside. He also said the testing for the ship’s full crew is already underway.

“The sailors who have been flown off the ship are currently doing fine,” Modly said. “None of them have been required to be hospitalized because their symptoms are very mild – aches and pains and those types of things, sore throats, but nothing that requires hospitalization. They are in quarantine now on Guam.”

Modly said the ship will further assess what to do with its crew when testing is complete. “The ship is going to be pulling into Guam, and then they’re going to figure out from there who needs to come off, who can stay on, looking at the level of symptoms and things like that.”

The U.S. Navy has also confirmed other coronavirus cases among ships docked pierside, as well as among members of its special operations community.

On Wednesday, the confirmed at least 227 coronavirus cases reported among U.S. service members, 67 among dependents, 81 among Defense Department civilians and 40 among defense contractors.

On Thursday the Pentagon announced the first confirmed coronavirus case among one of its personnel, a U.S. Marine stationed at the building as recently as March 13.