THE U.S. Navy will reportedly relieve the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who begged for his coronavirus-sickened sailors to be removed from the ship.
Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a letter to top Navy brass that the coronavirus is spreading aboard the ship, which is docked in Guam.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," he said. "If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors."
He said that removing all but 10 percent of the ship's 5,000-person crew is a “necessary risk” in order to stop the spread of the virus.
The captain told bosses in Washington that action has to be taken immediately, and that as many crew should be taken off as possible to save lives – so they can be tested, isolated and treated if necessary.
The commander said he was deeply concerned that the bug couldn't be contained.
On Thursday, Reuters reported the Navy was removed Crozier from his role aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Crozier alerted commanders on Sunday night of the increasing challenges of isolating the coronavirus among the crew, a Navy official told The Associated Press.
The official said Crozier wanted more isolated housing for the crew and that Navy leadership is reviewing options to ensure their health and safety.
U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino told reporters on Tuesday that the Navy was working to get as many sailors as possible on shore, while still maintaining a core crew to monitor the nuclear reactors and keep the ship running.
Aquilino said the pace may not be as fast as Crozier would like, but it would be done on a rotation, with sailors staying on shore in isolation for 14 days, then returning to the ship virus-free so that others can go ashore.
He said the Navy is doing what it can with what it has available and that at the time, around 1,000 sailors had been taken off the ship.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is, like other Navy ships, vulnerable to infectious diseases spreading given its close quarters.
Enlisted sailors and officers are based in separate living quarters — however, they normally grab their food from crowded buffet lines and eat at tables joined end-to-end.
It's not a practical environment to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak on the carrier may be the Navy’s most dramatic, but it tracks an accelerating upward trend across the military.
On Tuesday morning, the Department of Defense said the number of cases in the military reached 673, a jump of 104 from the day before and up from 174 a week ago.
Since March 20, the total has surged tenfold, even as the Pentagon has taken many steps to try to limit the spread, including halting nearly all movement of troops overseas.
The Pentagon has since ordered military leaders to stop publicly announcing coronavirus cases among military members in an effort to protect operational security at the U.S.'s global military installations.
More to follow…
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