The Commanding Officer of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier has called for the US Navy to take decisive action to protect the crew of the Covid-19 coronavirus-stricken carrier.
In a leaked letter seen by Naval Technology, Crozier said: “There are political challenges associated with securing individualised lodging for our crew. This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do.
“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 assets – our sailors.”
After an unconfirmed but growing number of Covid-19 cases were reported on board the ship, the aircraft carrier docked in Guam. In his letter, Crozier said that evacuating the majority of the ship’s personnel was the best way to ensure the ship and its air wing could get back underway.
Crozier proposed keeping 10% of the ship’s personnel on board to run the nuclear power plant, sanitise the ship, provide security and emergency response capabilities. Crozier said this was a necessary risk to keep the ship operational.
The ship has 5,000 people on board including 4,000 sailors. Crozier warned that current measures adopted by the navy would only serve to slow the spread of the virus and not stop it. The confined spaces and large crew make social distancing measures nearly impossible with crew eating together, and sharing berthing and bathroom facilities.
On top of this, mandatory watches and tasks requiring close contact between personnel make stopping the spread of the virus more difficult.
Closing the letter Crozier said: “Request all available resources to find NAVADMIN and CDC compliant quarantine rooms for my crew as soon as possible.”
In response, the US Navy has said that is working with authorities in Guam to locate possible sites to house the ship’s crew. According to USNI News, The US Marine Corps is also sending an expeditionary medical capability to Guam to assist with the situation.
In a statement commander of US Pacific Fleet Admiral John Aquilino said: “As this virus spreads both throughout the entire international community and the United States my number one concern is for the safety and welfare of our sailors and their families throughout the fleet.
“The families who are going through this at a tough time. I can’t thank them enough for their undying support to their sailor and we will continue to ensure we take care of those sailors, especially in this time of concern.”