Mayport Sailor, 2nd Boxer Sailor Confirmed with Coronavirus; Naval Academy Midshipmen Return Delayed Indefinitely

March 18, 2020 7:00 PM - Updated: March 19, 2020 12:48 PM

This post has been corrected to say a sailor assigned to ‘Vipers’ Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 is based in Mayport, Fla. not San Diego, Calif.

THE PENTAGON — A second sailor assigned to USS Boxer (LHD-4) and a sailor assigned to a Mayport, Fla.-based helicopter squadron have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the Navy announced on Wednesday.

The sailor from Boxer is the second from the ship following an initial March 13 case from the big deck amphib.

“There is no indication that the sailors were in close contact aboard the ship. Also, the sailors work in two different departments,” the Navy said in a statement.

“The sailor is currently isolated at their home and restricted in movement in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.”

Also on Wednesday, a sailor from the “Vipers” Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 tested positive for the virus.

“Military health professionals are in the process of conducting a thorough contact investigation to determine whether any other personnel may have been in close contact and possibly exposed. At this time there is no indication the sailor had contact with any other members of the squadron,” read the statement from the Navy.

On Tuesday, the Navy announced that a sailor aboard USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), a sailor aboard USS Coronado (LCS-4) and a staff member on U.S. 2nd Fleet was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Across the Department of Defense, 49 service members, 14 military civilians, 19 dependents and 7 contractors have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, DoD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, U.S. Naval Academy leadership said that the brigade of midshipmen would not return to Annapolis until further notice and continue classes through remote learning.

USS Boxer (LHD-4) transits the Pacific Ocean on Nov. &, 2019. US Navy Photo

“While we closed the Naval Academy to the general public, it will remain open in order for us to fulfill our mission, albeit under a new and challenging environment,” wrote superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck wrote in a message reviewed by USNI News.
“In addition to assisting national and local leadership slow the spread of COVID-19, my primary focus remains successfully completing this semester, and graduating and commissioning the Class of 2020 on time.”

The Pentagon has also started to cancel exercises across the world.

The massive European ground exercise Defender Europe has been shelved. U.S. Africa Command also canceled exercises African Lion, the Mediterranean Sea-based Phoenix Express and Obangame Express. The planning for the massive biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2020 is underway using video teleconferences and other technology that keep leaders safely apart, USNI News has learned.

Also on Wednesday, the Navy announced it would suspend holding physical fitness assessments across the force.

The “immediate suspension of the Navy physical readiness program physical fitness assessment for [Spring] 2020 to minimize the risk from COVID-19 to sailors and adhere to social distancing requirements,” read a message from the head of U.S. Navy personnel command. “Suspension includes both the official body composition assessment and physical readiness test components of the PFA.”

In addition, the service is delaying the Navy Wide Advancement Exams for several enlisted cohorts.

“With these exam date changes, the Navy Advancement Center (NAC) is focused on making sure no sailor is disadvantaged in the advancements processes,” said Tom Updike, deputy director of the NAC.

All enlisted advancement exams scheduled to be administered after March 17 are now rescheduled with the following administration dates:

  • May 21, 2020 – Cycle 247 (E-4 only) Active Duty and Full-Time Support (FTS) regular NWAEs
  • May 22, 2020 – Cycle 106 (E-4 through E-7) Selective Reserve (SELRES) NWAEs approved for late administration on the first available drill weekend after this date
  • June 12, 2020 – Cycle 247 (E-4 through E-6) final date to administer substitute exams
Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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