First COVID-19 cases found on personnel on deployed Navy carrier

First COVID-19 cases found on personnel on deployed Navy carrier

Acting Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Thomas B. Modly and Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operation host a press briefing to discuss Navy support during the COVID-19 response at the Pentagon Briefing Room, Washington D.C., March 24, 2020. (DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

WASHINGTON — Navy officials said Tuesday there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard one of its aircraft carriers at sea but that “our ships are sailing, our planes are flying and training is still happening.”

Three cases of COVID-19 were identified among personnel currently deployed and underway on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told Pentagon reporters today. They are the first cases of COVID-19 on a ship, he said.

“Those individuals have been quarantined and are being flown off the ship today. In fact, they may actually already be off the ship today. We’ve identified all those folks that they’ve had contact with and we’re quarantining them as well,” Modly said.

“I’ve often said that the most predictable thing that we can say about our future is that it will be unpredictable,” he said. “The frontlines are constantly being redrawn and we are realizing today that unpredictability is with us. And that’s why we need to be ready at all times to adjust and adapt to any emerging threat, even one too small to be seen by the human eye.”

As of Monday afternoon, the Navy had 86 active COVID-19 cases — 57 of Navy military, 13 of Navy civilians, 11 of Navy dependents and 5 contractors, Modly said.

Overall, as of Tuesday morning, the Defense Department was tracking 174 military cases of COVID-19; 59 civilians; 64 dependents, and 27 contractors.

In a separate briefing to Pentagon reporters, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard, said they were “tracking 26 National Guard members that had actually tested positive for COVID-19 and, you know, we expect as well that number will continue to grow.”

Just under 100 of the Navy’s roughly 300 ships are now at sea, most of which are deployed forward. The USS Theodore Roosevelt, with a crew of about 5,000, was last in port 15 days ago, during a stop in Da Nang, Vietnam.

All port calls have since been canceled.

“I think it would be difficult to tie down these active cases to that particular port visit,” Adm. Michael Gilday said., chief of Naval Operations, said. “So we’ve had aircraft flying to and from the ship and so we just don’t want to say it was that particular port visit; although we took great precautions when the crew came back from that shore period to do enhanced medical screening of the crew.”

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