A sailor assigned to the aircraft carrier Nimitz tested positive last week for the novel coronavirus as the ship continues to ramp up in preparation for a deployment this summer to the Pacific.
The sailor is the first individual who has physically been onboard the carrier to test positive, Politico first reported. Another crew member assigned to the Bremerton, Washington-based ship who previously contracted the virus had not yet boarded the vessel.
Nimitz medical staff have removed the sailor from the ship and placed the individual in isolation. Retracing the list of personnel who may have come into contact with the sailor has been completed in accordance with guidelines by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Politico reported.
The carrier began embarking sailors this month with an order to quarantine on the ship in an effort to prevent additional exposure to the general population, a Navy official told Politico. Washington state has been especially hard hit by the spread of COVID-19.
For sailors onboard Nimitz, the positive test has ignited concern over the possibility of an outbreak, similar to one experienced by the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which has been sidelined in Guam since late March while the entire crew gets tested.
Along with the Nimitz and Roosevelt, at least one sailor each from the aircraft carriers Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Whether the virus will spread aboard Nimitz, meanwhile, remains a source of concern, given not only the lack of COVID-19 testing prior to embarking, but also a CDC-recommended screening process that consists only of a temperature check and questionnaire prior to boarding.
“I think he’s pretty worried,” one Nimitz sailor’s father told the Washington Post. “He feels like they’re not taking it serious. It’s how the chiefs are handling it, and the fact that there are cases on board and they’re still thinking of pulling out.”
Such concern has not been mitigated by the polarizing situation currently being experienced by the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt, one that culminated yesterday with acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s official resignation — capping perhaps the most tumultuous 24-hour public relations fiasco the sea service has ever encountered.
Modly kicked off a whirlwind of events Monday when he boarded a flight to Guam.
Over the ship’s 1MC intercom — the audio of the speech was obtained by Military Times — Modly told sailors their commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, who penned a leaked letter pleading for U.S. intervention to stifle a COVID-19 outbreak onboard, was either “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”
Modly’s resignation came less than 24 hours later.
As of Wednesday Navy officials confirmed there are 286 cases of COVID-19 among the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt. That represents more than half of the Navy’s 513 confirmed cases and approximately 15 percent of the cases military-wide.
Nearly 2,500 of the ship’s sailors have been moved ashore.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.