More Than 1,000 Sailors Test Positive for COVID-19; Service Has Highest Share of Active Duty Infections

April 17, 2020 12:53 PM
Equipment Operator 3rd Class Tyler Dowling, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, speaks with Capt. Eric Correll, Commander, Task Force 75 during Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) site preparations on April 16, 2020. US Navy Photo

The Navy reported 1,017 active duty COVID-19 cases throughout the fleet, the service announced on Friday. Of those, infected sailors on USS Theodore Roosevelt account for the majority of the Navy’s active duty cases.

“As of today, 94 percent of USS Theodore Roosevelt crewmembers have been tested for COVID-19, with 660 positive and 3,920 negative results,” according to Friday’s COVID-19 report from the service. “4,059 sailors have moved ashore.”

Of the positive cases, seven sailors have been hospitalized at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, with one admitted to the intensive care unit “for increased observation due to shortness of breath.”

On Thursday, the Navy announced the identity of a Theodore Roosevelt sailor who died from COVID-19 complications. Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, is the first U.S. active duty service member to die from COVID-19. In late March, Army National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, 57, died from the virus.

Out of all of the services, the Navy has been the hardest hit by the virus. According to a Friday tally of military infections, the Navy had the largest share of active duty positive cases, with 44 percent of the 2,307 total positive cases across the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.

The outbreak on Theodore Roosevelt has become the most visible front of the military’s fight against the virus, following the dramatic removal of the ship’s former commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, and the subsequent resignation of former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly following pushback on his decision to relieve Crozier from his position.

The totals come as the Navy is adapting to new operating parameters defined by controlling the virus.

As lessons from Theodore Roosevelt percolate through the fleet, the Navy has published guidance to commanders and continues to publish revisions.

For formations preparing to deploy, the Navy has instituted a 14-day minimum isolation period to prevent the virus from coming aboard ships. According to the service, the isolation period with daily medical checks provides 95-percent certainty that a ship is COVID-19-free. How effective the measures will be given the high percentages of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases is unclear.

In addition to canceling liberty and keeping port calls to the barest minimum, the Navy is conforming as best it can to Center for Disease Control guidelines on ships.

“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5), told reporters on Wednesday.
“Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”

The service is also working on how it will deal with future outbreaks on deployments.

“If you have asymptomatic person or a COVID-positive person, you isolate them, find close contacts and quarantine those. If you’re underway and you’ve got symptomatic or COVID-positive person, we’re going to transfer him or her off as quickly as we can get them to shore medical facilities,” Sawyer said.
“Then you disinfect.”

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.
Follow @samlagrone

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