550 out of the 4,865 Sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier (hull number CVN-71) have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus infection as of April 11th, 2020. Thus far, 93% of the carrier’s crew have been tested for the coronavirus – 3,673 of which returned negative results. Just under 3,700 Sailors have disembarked from the carrier and moved into quarantine housing on Naval Base Guam and hotels designated by the local government. This comes as the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet grapples with the rapid spread of the pandemic through its ships. 94 warships, including the USS Theodore Roosevelt and three other aircraft carriers, have reported Sailors testing positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, a disembarked Sailor from CVN-71 was found unconscious in his quarantine room on Naval Base Guam, and was immediately transferred into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the onsite Naval Hospital. The Sailor was found to test positive for the coronavirus on March 30th, and was placed on the 14-day isolation in line with precautionary measures prescribed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Captain of CVN-71, CAPT. Brett Crozier, called for “decisive action” in his memo sent March 30th, saying that “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating… We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our Sailors”. CAPT. Crozier was subsequently relieved of command by then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly for “going outside his chain-of-command” and allegedly causing the memo to be leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Modly then incited outrage from the CVN-71 crew when he flew to the carrier and made insults at CAPT. Crozier on April 5th, calling him “too naive or too stupid” to be the ship’s Commanding Officer. Modly’s highly inappropriate actions and words sparked fierce criticism from many in the Navy, as well as in Congress, who called for his firing or resignation. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper was taken aback by his subordinate’s words, and directed him to make a public apology. Modly resigned from office on April 7th, the morning after issuing his apology to the relieved Captain and family. He was replaced by Undersecretary of the Army James E. McPherson, who was a Naval Judge Advocate General by profession and had served on-board the USS Theodore Roosevelt during the 1980s. SecDef Esper told CBS This Morning on April 11th that CAPT. Crozier’s reinstatement as Captain of carrier CVN-71 is not off the table, and that no action will be taken by the leadership until the investigation is completed. He intends to “hear from the chain-of-command… to support the chain-of-command and to take their recommendation seriously”. How the new Acting SecNav intends to restore the Fleet’s health and morale situation remains to be seen.