Sailors from coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier to quarantine in Guam hotels

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Guam will provide hotel rooms to quarantine crew members of a U.S. aircraft carrier struggling with an outbreak of the coronavirus, officials in the U.S. territory said Wednesday.

“The plan at this time is to remove as many people off the USS Teddy Roosevelt as we can, understanding that we have to leave a certain amount of folks on board to do normal watchstanding duties to keep the ship running,” Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of the Navy’s Joint Region Marianas, said at a news conference.

Speaking alongside Menoni, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said she will allow the Navy to move sailors who have tested negative for the virus into vacant hotel rooms on the island.

The comments come after a letter from the commanding officer of the Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, pleaded for permission to offload a majority of the more than 4,000-person crew to stop the spread of coronavirus on the ship.

Navy officials have not released a recent count of confirmed COVID-19 cases aboard, but the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported Crozier’s letter, cited an unnamed senior officer on the ship as saying the number as of Monday was 150 to 200.

The carrier has been docked in Guam since last week while the entire crew is tested for the virus.

In his letter, Crozier wrote that the focus on testing right now is “inappropriate” and that the only way to stop the virus’s spread would be to disembark a majority of the crew since it is impossible to quarantine and isolate people in the ship’s close quarters.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

Ten percent of the crew would have to stay on board for essential jobs, such as running the ship’s nuclear reactor, Crozier added.

On Wednesday, Guerrero said sailors taken off the Roosevelt will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period, where they will get daily medical checkups and be guarded by military security on every floor and point of entry. The military will also provide personal protective equipment to hotel workers, she added.

“We have an interest in protecting our community and stopping the spread of COVID-19 just as much as the military has an obligation to return the USS Roosevelt to the open ocean to protect Guam and the region,” Guerrero said.

“I know there will be a small chorus of cynics who will oppose this decision but now is not the time for ‘us versus them,’” she added.

Sailors who have tested positive for the virus are being kept at Naval Base Guam, Menoni said.

Crew members will start moving off the ship after plans to do so safely have been finalized with Guam’s government and hotels, he said.

“We’d like to start this as soon as we can, however we’re not going to start it without a good process and procedures in place to protect the people of Guam,” Menoni said.

The Navy is still deciding how many sailors to move to shore at a time, he added, saying it will be a “manageable group.”

About 40 medical professionals from the Marines will arrive in Guam in the next day or two to help with the sailors on the Roosevelt and provide assistance to local hospitals, he added.

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