Hundreds of sailors aboard the U.S. warship Chafee are all being moved off the ship and into San Diego hotels for a two-week quarantine following COVID-19 testing of the entire crew Friday,.
Officials declined to say precisely how many sailors tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, but said it was less than the 12 who tested positive in the past week as the guided-missile destroyer steamed from its homeport in Hawaii and arrived in San Diego for training.
No infected sailors have been hospitalized, according to officials.
All-hands testing of the crew had originally been scheduled for last Saturday morning on the San Diego pier, but it was never carried out for reasons the Navy has refused to explain.
The move to test the entire Chafee crew and the later decision to move them off ship follows a Navy Times report Thursday in which crew members expressed fear over the COVID infections and frustration with how the outbreak was being handled.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday directed the ship-wide testing in an email sent to fleet commanders Friday.
“One hundred percent testing is the right thing to do,” Gilday wrote. “I want to assure the Chafee crew, families and our Navy that we are doing all we can to ensure the crew is safe.”
U.S. 3rd Fleet officials confirmed that some personnel had tested positive for the coronavirus on the guided-missile destroyer, but declined to say how many cases had emerged.
At least 41 sailors who either tested positive or were close contacts had been moved off the ship as of Wednesday, according to ship records obtained by Navy Times.
The gym had been closed and several of the ship’s cooks were infected or had close contact with those who were, shutting down the Chafee’s galley as well.
Crew members told Navy Times that the kind of distancing used to mitigate COVID spread isn’t possible within the ship’s cramped confines.
A skeleton crew will remain aboard Chafee and the ship will be cleaned, said U.S. 3rd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson Friday afternoon.
What this means for Chafee’s training and deployment schedule remains unclear.
The ship was in town for Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, or SWATT, and was supposed to head back to Hawaii this weekend, sources told Navy Times on Thursday.