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US Navy ship captain hospitalized with COVID-19

The amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), returns to San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)

Navy Capt. Gervy “Gery” Alota, a San Diego ship captain and former standout safety for the U.S. Naval Academy football team, was admitted to Naval Medical Center San Diego Sunday with COVID-19, a relative told the Union-Tribune.

Alota, 45, is the commanding officer of the San Diego-based amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha. Alota grew up in San Diego and spent most of his career in his hometown, according to his Navy biography.

The Navy said Wednesday Alota’s ship is under the temporary command of another officer until its captain recovers. Citing privacy laws, a Navy spokeswoman declined to confirm that Alota is hospitalized with the virus.

“The commanding officer of USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is temporarily unable to perform his duties due to a medical condition,” said Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a Naval Surface Force Pacific spokeswoman in an email. “He has not been relieved of command.”

The Navy also would not comment on whether there are other COVID cases on the ship.

Transport docks typically have have about 350 crew members aboard but they could carry up to 700 Marines when necessary.

Cmdr. Robert Tryon, chief staff officer for Commander, Amphibious Squadron 7, is serving as the acting commanding officer, Schwegman said.

It is not the first time a ship captain has contracted the virus.

In April, Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, also tested positive for the virus and recovered, though he was not in command at the time. He had been reassigned after COVID breakouts on the Roosevelt caused the ship to be sidelined for more than two months in Guam last spring.

News of Alota’s status comes days before the annual Army-Navy game Saturday.

Alota lived in Paradise Hills when he was a standout football player at Morse High School in the 1990s.

He played in four Army-Navy games while at the Naval Academy. Alota was a four-year starter at safety on the football team and was named co-captain in 1997, his senior season. He led the team in tackles that year and still has the second-most career tackles in team history, according to the Academy’s media guide.

Alota also appeared in a 2006 military-focused episode of the show “Fear Factor.”

The family member, who asked not to be named because he’s not authorized to speak, said he is not sure of Alota’s condition in the hospital.

News of Alota’s illness comes as coronavirus rates in San Diego are surging.

On Wednesday, San Diego County announced 15 more deaths and 2,100 new Covide-19 cases reported. That means more than 1,103 San Diegans so far have died of the virus and 97,549 people have been sickened by it.

While the Defense Department does not release local coronavirus case numbers, a recent Navy message said military cases typically mirror those in the local community.

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(c) 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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