Thirteen U.S. Navy sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have contracted the coronavirus for a second time after having recovered from the disease and returned to the ship, sparking a new outbreak.
This is the second round of cases as the aircraft carrier is working through the process of cycling healthy crew back onto the ship for it to redeploy to sea after it was sidelined in Guam near the end of March. U.S. defense officials who spoke with Politico indicated the 13 sailors have since been removed from the ship and returned to isolation at the U.S. Naval Base Guam.
“This week, a small number of TR Sailors who previously tested COVID positive and met rigorous recovery criteria have retested positive,” Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Myers Vasquez said in an official statement. “These protocols resulted in a small number of close contacts who were also removed from the ship, quarantined and tested.
“The ship remains on the road to recovery and will prepare to get back underway once a critical mass of crew with the required expertise is onboard,” said Vasquez.
The Navy had already implemented strict standards for returning sailors to the ship, including that they have completed their 14 day isolation period, have tested negative for coronavirus twice, and have been symptom-free for at least three days.
The U.S. Navy moved in April to stop releasing specific numbers indicating the number of sailors in specific commands with coronavirus cases. The Navy did confirm more than 2,900 sailors had returned to the ship, according to a Monday press release. More than a quarter of those sailors who tested positive for the coronavirus had reportedly recovered
The Navy reported the aircraft carrier was undergoing a “fast cruise” in which the crew simulates normal conditions for a ship underway while testing critical systems for when it is fully operational again.
“Fast cruise is a major milestone for the ship and for the crew,” said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, commanding officer of Theodore Roosevelt. “Our Sailors have tested all of the ship’s systems individually, but this is our opportunity to integrate all of that together and show that Theodore Roosevelt is ready and able to go back to sea.”
The ship has been bringing sailors back on board since April 29, but still has several steps to go before it can return to the operations it had planned before the original coronavirus outbreak began. Among those steps, the crew still have to perform underway training and carrier qualifications for its air wings to return to operational readiness.
The Navy reported the aircraft carrier crew was also implementing new protective measures for the ship, including wearing face masks and managing social distancing aboard the cramped aircraft carrier berthings.