By LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Eighteen sailors aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Kidd, operating in the Pacific Ocean, have tested positive for the coronavirus, and one of them has been medically evacuated to the United States, according to the Navy.
This marks the second outbreak at sea aboard a U.S. Navy vessel; the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt remains in Guam with most of its crew still in quarantine.
The Navy said in a statement on Friday that the 18 sailors had tested positive for the coronavirus as the destroyer was operating in the eastern Pacific Ocean as part of a new counternarcotics mission.
“A Sailor assigned to USS Kidd (DDG 100) tested positive for COVID-19 after being medically evacuated to the United States from operations at sea, April 23,” according to the Navy statement.
Seventeen other sailors tested positive within 24 hours of the first case, and the Navy has deployed a specialized medical team to the ship to conduct contact tracing and additional onsite testing.
The Navy said it expected that additional sailors among the ship’s crew of 350 would test positive.
The destroyer is now headed toward an American port, where it will be cleaned and disinfected. The Kidd had been operating for the past several weeks in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico.
“The first patient transported is already improving and will self-isolate. We are taking every precaution to ensure we identify, isolate, and prevent any further spread onboard the ship,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “Our medical team continues coordinating with the ship and our focus is the safety and well-being of every sailor.”
The outbreak aboard the ship is only the second time that cases of COVID-19 have appeared among the more than 90 U.S. Navy ships currently at sea, though there have been other positive cases among the crews of 26 ships berthed in their homeports.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, the only other ship to have cases while underway, remains in port in Guam where more than 85 percent of the almost 5,000 sailors aboard are in quarantine or self-isolation. Seventeen percent of that ship’s crew, or 840 sailors, have tested positive for the virus. Last week, a sailor serving aboard the ship passed away from complications caused by the virus.
Capt. Brett Crozier, the ship’s former commanding officer who was fired by the Navy’s top civilian official, was also among the sailors who tested positive.
Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly had removed Crozier from command following the publication of a letter he had written urging the Navy to do more to help stem the spread of coronavirus among his crew. Modly later resigned following the uproar over his comments to the crew of the Roosevelt in which he belittled their former commander as being “either too naive or too stupid” to not think that his letter would appear in public.
On Friday afternoon, top officials of the Navy recommended that the captain be restored to his command. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has asked for time to review the recommendation.
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