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Ford sailors test positive for COVID-19

An outbreak of COVID-19 has hit sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, officials confirmed this week.

Citing Pentagon policy, Naval Air Force Atlantic spokeswoman Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg declined to provide an exact count of how many Ford sailors had been infected, but wrote in an email that it was “a small number of Sailors” diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in recent weeks.

Cragg did not specify when the positive tests came in but said Thursday that the positives occurred “over a week ago.”

A reader first alerted Navy Times to the COVID cases aboard the Ford, which has about 2,700 sailors currently assigned to the flattop.

“The Sailors were removed from the ship and placed in isolation, additionally contact tracing was completed quickly and identified close contacts were immediately placed in quarantine,” she said. “There has been no impact to operations.”

The Navy’s newest carrier conducted in-port training with sailors assigned to the carrier John C. Stennis this week, an effort that focused on integrating the two crews during a casualty situation, according to an AIRLANT release.

The ship is following all Defense Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Cragg added.

“Additionally, USS Gerald R. Ford is actively enforcing physical distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE, and cleaning extensively,” Cragg said.

The Ford cases highlight the challenges the Navy faces in keeping the enclosed, close-quarters confines of a ship free from COVID.

While Big Navy has established restriction-of-movement and isolation protocols, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday noted last month that more than 190 ships in the fleet had suffered some sort of coronavirus outbreak this year.

Officials credit mitigation measures in helping to prevent outbreaks of the size that afflicted the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and the warship Kidd this spring.

As of Wednesday, 12,074 sailors had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a weekly Navy tally.

Are you a sailor who deployed this year under the Navy’s COVID-19 protocols? Email tips@militarytimes.com to share your story.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the number of sailors currently assigned to the Ford. The story has been updated to reflect that there are 2,700 sailors assigned to the flattop.

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