The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle joined the American carrier Theodore Roosevelt last week in becoming another stalwart ship to be sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak on board.
On April 10, French officials announced that 50 sailors from the carrier had tested positive for the novel coronavirus while the ship was conducting routine operations on deployment to the North Atlantic.
Two of those 50 crew members are U.S. sailors assigned to the carrier as part of the U.S. Navy’s Personnel Exchange Program, the Navy announced Wednesday.
The American sailors have been removed from the ship and “are receiving excellent host nation medical care at French facilities,” Navy officials said.
Charles de Gaulle, which carries a crew of nearly 1,800, pulled into port approximately two weeks ahead of its scheduled return to Toulon Naval Base in southern France.
The 50 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were out of 66 total tests issued.
Four U.S. sailors in all were on the ship as part of the exchange program, according to the Navy. The other two crew members have also been moved into quarantine as a precaution.
All aircraft and ships that deployed with Charles de Gaulle are undergoing a deep cleaning in port, the French Navy — Marine Nationale — announced on Twitter.
Sailors “will be placed in quarantine, adapted to the medical and personal situation of each,” the Marine Nationale tweeted.
“Measures are taken to ensure their safe arrival. The primary objective is the health of seafarers and the protection of their relatives and fellow citizens.”
The exchange program between the two nations is designed to foster “strong relationships and enhanced communication with partners and Allies,” Navy officials said. “Sailors are integrated into the French crew in all daily operations, which includes medical care, if needed.”
The first active-duty service member to succumb to COVID-19 was a sailor who died Monday in Guam following a massive outbreak onboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. The deceased was initially taken to an intensive care unit on the morning of April 9 after being found unresponsive by other quarantined sailors.
Approximately 85 percent of Roosevelt’s crew has been evacuated from the carrier in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined the ship in Guam nearly three weeks ago, Navy officials said.
As of Tuesday, 615 Roosevelt crew members have tested positive and moved into quarantine.
“We are working closely with our NATO Ally to fight against the virus and we are confident that our Sailors are in good hands,” Navy officials said regarding the exchange sailors.
“We look forward to continued operations with the Charles de Gaulle and the French Navy in the future.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.