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'Sailors do not need to die': Captain of aircraft carrier asks for help with onboard COVID-19 outbreak

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which recently docked at Guam due to an onboard COVID-19 outbreak, is shown here in 2018 as it arrives in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which recently docked at Guam due to an onboard COVID-19 outbreak, is shown here in 2018 as it arrives in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(Image: © Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier docked near Guam has written a letter begging the Navy for help as at least 100 Sailors have become ill with COVID-19. 

The San Francisco Chronicle acquired the letter, which was written Monday by Capt. Brett Crozier aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Within the letter, Crozier outlines the impossibility of social distancing aboard an aircraft carrier, with its shared bathroom facilities, berths and dining facilities. 

"The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating," he wrote. Noting the urgency of the situation, Crozier also wrote, "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." 

Four thousand crew members are aboard the ship, and only a handful of ill individuals have been evacuated to Guam, the Chronicle reported. To stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent deaths, Crozier wrote, it is necessary to evacuate all but a skeleton crew from the ship and to find safe, isolated places for potentially exposed Sailors to quarantine.

Related: Q&A: Expat quarantined in China shares how to survive 8 weeks

Crozier wrote in the letter that the only shoreside facilities available for housing evacuated Sailors do not meet requirements for social distancing or quarantine: They consist of gymnasium-like spaces with cots where sick and well Sailors can't be separated while they wait out the 14-day quarantine period. 

"Although marginally better than a warship, group quarantine sites are not a solution and are not in accordance with current guidance," Crozier wrote. 

At least 10% of the crew will need to remain aboard the Theodore Roosevelt, Crozier wrote, to run the nuclear reactor that powers the ship, to sanitize cabins and corridors, and to maintain security and respond to emergencies. 

Related: 13 Coronavirus myths busted by science

In response, Acting Naval Secretary Thomas Modly told CNN that the Navy is working with Guam to find a solution. 

"The problem is that Guam doesn't have enough beds right now, and we're having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities," Modly said, according to The Chronicle. 

Coronavirus science and news

Originally published on Live Science. 

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  • Dave_dwr
    The captain of the Roosevelt did not beg for help. Your headlines and text are
    sensationalist. Exactly what we don't need at the present time.
    Reply
  • Count
    Dave_dwr said:
    The captain of the Roosevelt did not beg for help. Your headlines and text are
    sensationalist. Exactly what we don't need at the present time.
    I totally agree. The captain of a United States Navy nuclear carrier does not need to beg or grovel. He can request as polite representative of the most powerful navy in the world
    Reply
  • Chainsaw
    Adapt and improvise. Carriers are huge and moving berthing around to have a make shift quarantined area does not seem impossible. Besides, only the serious covid19 cases need hospitalization and it's very rare that someone under 50 becomes serious.

    Btw, how did the SanFran Chronicle acquire this request?
    Reply
  • kevinrs
    Chainsaw said:
    Adapt and improvise. Carriers are huge and moving berthing around to have a make shift quarantined area does not seem impossible. Besides, only the serious covid19 cases need hospitalization and it's very rare that someone under 50 becomes serious.

    Btw, how did the SanFran Chronicle acquire this request?
    relatively they are huge, but with 4000 crew, there isn't a lot of spare space. It might seem like there would be, but 4000 is a lot, and much of the ship's volume is taken up by the mechanics of the ship, aircraft it's carrying, etc. The problem is they need to separate all 4000 from each other because half of those carrying the virus probably aren't showing symptoms, and even if 4000 tests are sent, it takes 2-3 days to get results.
    Reply
  • wmgrimball
    The CO should get tents and cots from Guam and set up a hospital on the flight deck. Doctors and equipment needed for care could be flown in from Hawaii or the ststes. That way the sick would be separated from the rest of the crew. This solution could be effected in a minimum time frame.
    Reply
  • rbjones
    Really? In this day and age, the commander wrote a letter begging for help? A letter? So the satellite communications and secure transmissions weren't available? I'm calling BS on this one. The Captian begging? In whose Navy do captains beg? They take action. BTW 5,000 onboard, most under 40, few over 60, none with serious underlying health conditions, fully equipped sickbay and staff, ability to fly off personnel as needed, fully able to segregate and quarantine as needed.......... this is not a critical situation that can't be handled through the normal process.
    Reply
  • rbjones
    admin said:
    The captain of a Naval aircraft carrier is asking for help as at least 100 Sailors aboard have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

    'Sailors do not need to die': Captain of aircraft carrier begs for help with onboard COVID-19 outbreak : Read more
    100 out of 5,000 diagnosed? How many are sick and need hospitalization? Any of those need ICU? Any deaths? Lots of details missing here.
    Reply
  • Chainsaw
    kevinrs said:
    relatively they are huge, but with 4000 crew, there isn't a lot of spare space. It might seem like there would be, but 4000 is a lot, and much of the ship's volume is taken up by the mechanics of the ship, aircraft it's carrying, etc. The problem is they need to separate all 4000 from each other because half of those carrying the virus probably aren't showing symptoms, and even if 4000 tests are sent, it takes 2-3 days to get results.
    If you compare this vessel to the Diamond Princess cruise vessel that had 3500 people, only 20% (700) got infected, not 50%. The whole hanger bay can be unloaded of aircraft by flying them to Guam. Unloading a carrier of aircraft happens every time a carrier comes home, not a big deal to do. With the Hanger Bay vacant, surely a make shift quarantined area can be constructed.
    Reply
  • Brian
    Sailor's on a Carrier like tourists stuck on a cruise ship is not a good thing.
    Very hard to stop onboard.
    Hope the Navy is being exceptionally careful about how they are preparing the food so they are not feeding the virus the Crew.
    IMO one of the reasons the virus is so hard to stop on cruise ships is that food is being contaminated in the ship's kitchen an then delivered to the passengers.
    Reply
  • ejbriel
    The crew of an aircraft carrier is not going to have the same population of at-risk people as a cruise ship--quite the opposite I would hope. I thought the captain and crew should have sucked it up--or at least make damn sure the press didn't get hold of his "plea".

    And the navy cashiered the captain today.
    Reply