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Coronavirus cases surge on carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, destroyer USS Kidd

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/Released)

Novel coronavirus outbreaks on two Navy warships surged Thursday as more sailors were tested.

Some sailors on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt are testing positive despite having been quarantined on Guam for at least 14 days, the Navy said. As of Thursday, 1,102 Roosevelt sailors have the virus and an additional 52 have recovered, the Navy reported.

The Navy does not consider a sailor as recovered until they’ve been isolated 14 days and had two successive negative tests.

On the guided-missile destroyer Kidd, which arrived in San Diego Tuesday, the Navy says there are 78 active cases — about 25 percent of the 330-person crew.

The spike in cases on the Roosevelt illustrates the challenges the virus presents. About half of those testing positive have no symptoms.

The San Diego-based aircraft carrier has been trying to turn the corner in its fight against the virus since the first known case was discovered aboard the San Diego-based ship more than a month ago.

On Tuesday the Navy reported for the first time a decrease in positive tests on the Roosevelt, with 940 “active” cases, down from 955 on Monday.

However as the ship began moving more than 4,000 sailors out of quarantine and back onto the ship, it again tested them — the source of the spike in positive tests, the Navy says.

“The increase in active cases represent exit tests for Sailors who are asymptomatic,” the Navy said.

Three sailors are being treated for COVID-19 at Naval Hospital Guam. The Roosevelt has been in Guam since late March.

In related news, the Navy on Thursday announced a follow-up investigation into the events around the outbreak is expected to be finished by May 27.

This follows a recent preliminary investigation in which Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, reportedly recommended that the Navy reinstate the former captain of the Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, to command.

Crozier was fired from command April 2, after a letter he sent to a handful of Navy captains and admirals asking for help to move thousands of sailors off the ship and into quarantine was leaked to the press.

The acting Navy secretary who fired him, Thomas Modly, then told the crew over the ship’s loudspeaker that Crozier was naive or stupid to believe his letter wouldn’t be leaked. Modly’s speech also was leaked, and Modly resigned on April 7.

There has since been pressure to reinstate Crozier, with some Democratic political leaders painting Crozier’s firing as an effort to appease President Donald Trump.

The Navy’s continued investigation is to provide more information, officials said.

“The command investigation will expand on the recently completed preliminary inquiry, provide a more robust documentation of events, and give a fuller consideration of the circumstances surrounding the matter,” said Cmdr. Nate Christensen, the admiral’s spokesman, in a statement.

Although the investigation is due May 27, it’s unclear when a decision about Crozier is expected; the deadline could be extended and Gilday could take more time to review the recommendations.

Outbreak on Kidd surges to 78 sailorsIn San Diego, all but 90 sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer Kidd have moved off the ship and are quarantined at a local hotel, according to a Navy official.

As of Thursday, 78 sailors on the ship have tested positive for the virus. None of them are in the hospital, the Navy said.

The Kidd, based in Everett, Wa., deployed in early January and stopped briefly in San Diego before again setting sail alongside the Theodore Roosevelt.

Officials are not sure how the virus got on board the ship, which was last in port in Hawaii in mid-March — more than a month ago and more than the estimated 14-day dormant period for the virus.

Also, unlike on an aircraft carrier, there is not a frequent coming and going of personnel on destroyers via aircraft to and from the ship.

The Navy has arranged for an industrial cleaning company to assist sailors in cleaning and sanitizing the ship, which is docked at Naval Base San Diego.

Cmdr. Patrick Evans, a Naval Surface Force Pacific spokesman, previously told the Union-Tribune the Navy is following the quarantine and decontamination procedures first established on the Roosevelt for the new outbreak on the Kidd. The process is expected to take at least a month.


© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune