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Top Marine, Navy and Coast Guard officers talk coronavirus at San Diego conference

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

The spreading Covid-19 coronavirus 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 a the WEST 2020 conference in San Diego 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 yet tested positive for the virus. An Army spokesman confirmed the soldier is, 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,” said Gilday. “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 he 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,” Berger 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 in February.

WEST is a large naval conference held in San Diego each year. It attracts top military brass and defense contractors to the San Diego Convention Center and runs through Tuesday .


© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune