Timeline: Theodore Roosevelt COVID-19 Outbreak Investigation

June 23, 2020 8:48 AM - Updated: June 23, 2020 10:47 AM

The investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak on USS Theodore Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) outlined the chain of events that led to more than 1,200 sailors assigned to carrier contracting the virus, the removal of the commanding officer Capt. Brett Crozier and the eventual resignation of former acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

The following are key dates in the outbreak derived from the findings of fact from the command investigation issued on June 19, 2020, press reports and public information.

Friday, Nov. 1, 2019

Capt. Crozier takes command of USS Theodore Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).

Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019

Chinese officials report a cluster of flu-like illnesses eventually identified as the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

Theodore Roosevelt deploys from San Diego.

Thursday, Jan. 23

The first two COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Vietnam.

Sunday, Feb. 2

The crew of Theodore Roosevelt starts taking precautions against COVID-19 transmission, including messages about handwashing, distribution of hand sanitizer and bleaching surfaces twice daily. The effort is known as ‘bleach-a-palooza.’

Saturday, Feb. 22

A group of U.S. ships participates in Cobra Gold exercises near Thailand. According to the Navy’s investigation, none of the sailors involved in the exercise contracted coronavirus.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells the Navy that there’s no evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam and describes the port visit as “low risk.”

Thursday, Feb. 27

TR sends an advance detachment to Da Nang to prepare for arrival.

Tuesday, March 3

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. Phil Davidson confirms to press that TR is set to visit Vietnam.

Wednesday, March 4

U.S. Pacific Fleet forwarded a final port visit decision recommendation to INDOPACOM recommending to go forward with the Da Nang port visit based on Pacific final risk analysis.

Commander of U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Bill Merz signs off on plans for the Theodore Roosevelt to stop in Vietnam the next day.

Thursday, March 5

Theodore Roosevelt arrives at its second port of call, Da Nang, Vietnam.

Saturday, March 7

U.S. Pacific Fleet holds a 400-person reception at the Da Nang Golden Bay Hotel.

Sunday, March 8

A group of 30 reporters are brought by liberty boat aboard Theodore Roosevelt for a tour of the hangar and flight deck.

The U.S. Embassy is alerted that some sailors stayed in the same hotel as two British citizens who tested positive for COVID-19. Theodore Roosevelt announced that people who returned to the ship would not be allowed to disembark again.

The ship sets up a command center and gathers information on which sailors stayed at the Vanda Hotel. They identify 39.

Monday, March 9

The ship leaves Da Nang with 39 sailors in quarantine. The ship’s executive officer starts issuing sanitation guidance to try to control the spread of the disease.

A total of seven flights from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines ferries 29 passengers to the carrier.

Wednesday, March 11

Personnel from the Biological Defense Research Directorate arrive on board Theodore Roosevelt with specialized equipment for testing respiratory pathogens. Capt. Daniel Keeler takes over as carrier’s executive officer from Capt. Peter Riebe. WHO declares a worldwide pandemic over COVID-19 spread.

Thursday, March 12

The carrier begins social distancing by issuing a guidance memo that requires sailors to stay six feet apart and avoid mass gatherings. Theodore Roosevelt’s captain and executive officer both stated later they thought social distancing was impossible on a ship.

Navy issues guidance on COVID-19 preventive measures and restricted official and personal travel and PCS orders. Service also issued guidance on preventive measures, travel, PCS and liberty restrictions to CDC Level 3 locations, and reporting requirements.

Friday, March 13

The Theodore Roosevelt commanding officer sends a notice to families that COVID-19 testing has been implemented onboard while the Defense Department issues stop-movement order and President Donald Trump declares a national emergency.

Saturday, March 14

The 39 sailors quarantined since Da Nang all test negative for COVID-19 as Navy issues stop-movement order and Guam declares public health emergency.

Sunday, March 15
TR senior medical officer Capt. John York emails crew screening requirements after port visits, explaining self-monitoring, and passing reminders about hand sanitization, hand washing, and cough etiquette. York begins to keep closer contact with U.S. Pacific Fleet surgeon.

Monday, March 23

Theodore Roosevelt starts rerouting COD flights from the Philippines to Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as Navy publishes guidance on quarantine and isolation.

Tuesday, March 24

Three sailors told the ship’s medical department they had lost their sense of taste or smell. Early studies found this was a symptom of COVID-19, but since they had no other symptoms, they were sent back to work. Crozier declares “bleach-a-palooza” a twice-daily event.

Three other sailors test positive for COVID-19. None had been in close contact with the 39 sailors quarantined as the ship was leaving Vietnam. USA Today reports the outbreak the same day. Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer tells 7th Fleet, “crew of the TR will not leave pier, with the exception of sailors testing positive for COVID-19, who will be sequestered in base berthing facilities.”

Wednesday, March 25

The first four sailors identified with COVID-19 are taken off the carrier by helicopter. Carrier Strike Group 9 made a plan to isolate sailors in hotel rooms when Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Guam and sent a request for 4,000 hotel rooms to higher headquarters.

Thursday, March 26

The number of sailors tested positive for COVID-19 jumps from eight to 33.

Friday, March 27

When the carrier moors in Guam, confusion about protocols for testing and quarantine come to a head and plans to get sailors into hotels stall. The executive officer later tells investigators requirements “seemed to change daily.”

Saturday, March 28

The number of known COVID-19 cases aboard TR rises to 46.

Sunday, March 29

As the number of cases climbs to 53, ship’s senior medical officer York writes an email stating “we have lost” the battle against COVID-19.

Sunday, March 29

7th Fleet eliminates on a plan to move TR’s sailors to rooms on Okinawa.

Crozier decides to lift a quarantine on sailors in the ship’s aft birthing because it was causing “true human suffering,” according to the executive officer. He began assuming all TR sailors were COVID-19-positive. The investigation found he did not consult officials in Carrier Strike Group 9.

Monday, March 30

The ship stops transferring sailors to Guam because no more single-occupancy rooms are available. 7th Fleet officials told investigators Crozier turned down cots in places like storerooms and warehouses.

Monday, March 30

Leadership on the TR expects a phone call from the chief of naval operations, which the CNO’s personnel say was never scheduled. Crozier sends an email on an unclassified network to 10 recipients asking for “all available resources to find NAVADMIN and CDC-compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.” Carrier Strike Group 9 officials later say they weren’t warned he planned to send the email, and 7th Fleet was not copied.

Tuesday, March 31

Five senior medical officers sign a letter recommending all sailors be removed from the ship. If their recommendations aren’t heeded, they threaten to make the letter public. The same day, the ship’s ombudsman sends a letter criticizing “the overwhelming lack of medical treatment or check-in for sailors who have been moved off the ship,” read the summary of fact. A San Francisco Chronicle reporter receives a copy of Crozier’s email and contacts the Office of the Secretary of Defense for comment. The paper publishes an article based on Crozier’s email outlining the situation on TR.

Wednesday, April 1

Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor obtains 4,000 hotel rooms on Guam where sailors can be quarantined.

Thursday, April 2

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly relieves Crozier of command, citing “extremely poor judgment.” Navy launches investigation into the command climate around the outbreak.

Sunday, April 5

Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. is treated in the Naval Hospital Guam emergency room for COVID-19, but discharged and sent back into isolation the same day.

Monday, April 6

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly flies to Guam and gives a speech telling the TR crew that “what your captain did was very, very wrong.” The speech is recorded and later released to the press. Modly resigns as acting Secretary of the Navy after several lawmakers call for his removal.

Tuesday, April 7

As his speech to the TR crew is reported widely in the media, Modly resigns as acting Secretary of the Navy after several lawmakers call for his removal.

Thursday, April 9

In his isolated room on the Guam Naval Base, Thacker is found unresponsive during one of the twice-daily medical checks.

Monday, April 13

Thacker dies of COVID-19, the first coronavirus-related death of a TR sailor.

Monday, April 29

On the day the results of a preliminary investigation were due to be released, a press conference and congressional notification to brief the findings were canceled. CNO Adm. Mike Gilday would have recommended Crozier to be reinstated to command the carrier. Instead, the Navy announces an expanded investigation into the command climate around the outbreak.

Thursday, June 4

Theodore Roosevelt departs Guam after containing the outbreak. The Navy developed a process of moving sailors back aboard after keeping them in isolation for at least 14 days and requiring each sailor to test negative twice for COVID-19.

Tuesday, June 9

CSG-9 commander Rear Adm. Stuart Baker is relieved by Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo in a planned change of command ceremony. Baker was set to report to INDO-PACOM as the director of operations and had been confirmed by the Senate for a second star.

Friday, June 19
After a second investigation, the Navy decides not to reverse the decision relieving Crozier of command. Gilday recommended Crozier, senior medical officer York and Carrier Air Wing 11 commander Capt. Steve Jaureguizar face further review for administrative action by Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino.

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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