Five sailors from the embattled aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 retested positive this week, officials confirmed Friday. Eight additional sailors tested positive again on Saturday.
The sailors had previously returned to the ship, which has been sidelined in Guam as leadership works to get the crew free of the novel coronavirus and back to work.
Like the rest of the crew who had come back onboard, the five had been self-monitoring and following social distancing protocols before they tested positive, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clayton Doss said in a statement.
“These five sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and did the right things reporting to medical for evaluation,” Doss said. “The sailors were immediately removed from the ship and placed back in isolation, their close contacts were mapped, and they are receiving the required medical care.”
Doss added that “a small number of other sailors who came in close contact with these individuals were also removed from the ship and tested.
“They will remain in quarantine pending retest results,” he said.
On Saturday, a Navy official confirmed to the Associated Press that eight additional sailors had tested positive again, raising to 13 the number of sailors who appear to have become infected a second time. The Navy official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
CNN reported Thursday that 18 TR sailors had been removed after the five retested positive but officials declined to confirm that number.
Whether the five afflicted sailors were reinfected or still had the virus after multiple negative tests remains under investigation.
Navy officials point out that TR sailors have been tested more than any other sailors in the Navy.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman acknowledged Friday that dealing with COVID-19 “has been a learning process.”
“This is a very stubborn infectious disease,” he said, crediting the ship’s testing, contact tracing and surveillance systems with getting those twice-positive sailors promptly off the ship.
“We’re taking every step possible to get the ship fully clean and fully ready,” Hoffman added.
Putting those five sailors who retested positive in any kind of context remains difficult since the Navy stopped updating the number of sailors testing positive aboard the TR on April 30.
On that date, there were 1,102 active cases aboard the carrier.
The Navy reported 1,308 active cases in the ranks as of Thursday, which included seven hospitalizations.
As of Thursday, 889 sailors had recovered, according to Navy figures.
Since an outbreak on the ship in March forced it into port in Guam, leading to the firing of the commanding officer and eventual resignation of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly last month, sailors have been isolating in island hotels and returning to the ship after testing negative.
Military Times reporter Meghann Myers contributed to this report.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.