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Report: 4th US aircraft carrier hit with coronavirus

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) arrives pierside at Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton on Jan. 13, 2015. Nimitz was undergoing a planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan J. Mayes)
April 08, 2020

A sailor aboard the USS Nimitz tested positive for coronavirus, marking the fourth U.S. aircraft carriers with sailors affected by the virus.

The sailor tested positive for coronavirus last week, according to three defense officials who spoke to Politico. Another sailor assigned to the aircraft carrier also reportedly tested positive with coronavirus, though they were not aboard the carrier. The carrier has been preparing to deploy from Bremerton, Wash.

To date, coronavirus cases have been reported among the crews of three other U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

A coronavirus outbreak aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt became a high profile issue in recent weeks. When cases first emerged, the USS Theodore Roosevelt flew sailors who tested positive off the ship while it was still at sea. The carrier eventually diverted from its course through the Philippine Sea to seek port in Guam and test the entire crew.

The situation for the USS Theodore Roosevelt appeared to worsen as cases aboard the ship eventually surpassed 100 and the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, issued a critical email pleading for the chance to quarantine most of its crew for up to 14 days to stop the spread of the virus. Crozier’s email eventually leaked to the news media, and raised concerns about the operational security and secrecy of the ship’s status.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly made the decision to relieve Crozier of his command, in a controversial decision that prompted anger from some of the carrier’s crew. Crozier himself later tested positive for the virus.

Cases have also been reported aboard USS Ronald Reagan, which is undergoing maintenance in Japan, as well as the USS Carl Vinson, which is undergoing maintenance in Puget Sound, Wash.

Cmdr. John Fage, a spokesman for the 3rd Fleet, said the USS Nimitz is bringing many of its sailors aboard the ship to reduce their chance of being exposed to the virus as well as to more easily monitor their health for potential coronavirus symptoms.

Fage told Politico that commanders have been told to “bring the crew on board the ship in order to minimize potential COVID exposure in an effort to maximize warfighting readiness and ensure the health of the force. This direction is in accordance with U.S. Pacific Fleet guidance to ensure we do not spread COVID-19.”

When asked if the USS Nimitz would be replacing the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific, Fage declined to comment and said, “As a matter of operational security, it is U.S. Pacific Fleet policy not to discuss future exercises, operations, or ship movements.”

Reuters recently reported the U.S. military has elected to limit some details about confirmed cases among its ranks, citing concerns those details could communicate weaknesses and vulnerabilities to adversaries of the U.S.