Roosevelt sailor with coronavirus admitted to intensive care

Roosevelt sailor with coronavirus admitted to intensive care
© Getty Images

A sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt who had tested positive for the coronavirus has been sent to an intensive care unit, officials said Thursday.

“Sadly this morning we had our first hospitalization of the one sailor,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press briefing. “We’re hoping that that sailor recovers. We’re praying for him and his family and his shipmates.”

Hyten added that “deep down” he hoped no sailors from the Roosevelt would be hospitalized, but that’s “just not going to be the case with coronavirus ... even in our demographic.”

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The sailor had tested positive for the virus March 30 and was in a 14-day isolation period on Naval Base Guam before his hospitalization, the Navy said in a statement Thursday.

The sailor is now at the intensive care unit at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, the Navy said, adding that “more details will be released when they become available.”

The coronavirus outbreak aboard the Roosevelt has turned into a political firestorm after the ship’s former commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, wrote a letter pleading for help that leaked in the media.

Crozier was subsequently fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. Modly himself resigned Tuesday after fanning the flames of the controversy by traveling to Guam, where the Roosevelt is docked, and berating Crozier as “naive” or “stupid” in a speech over the ship’s PA system.

As of Thursday, 416 sailors on the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, Hyten said. Results from about 1,000 tests are pending, he added.

Teams of medics are checking twice a day on the sailors who have been taken off the ship, which is now at 2,700, Hyten said.

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Asked about the situation aboard a different carrier, the USS Nimitz, Hyten said there has been “very small number of breakouts” there and that sailors on the ship have been physically separated. The Navy later clarified that one sailor who was on leave and never stepped on the ship tested positive. Another sailor on the ship exhibited symptoms, but the test results were inconclusive, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss said.

The Nimitz is docked in Washington state right now, but preparing to go out to sea later this month.

"There are no sailors on board who tested positive. Two sailors had coronavirus symptoms, were tested and quarantined immediately – both are recovering now," Doss said in an email.

Hyten said the military must plan to be able to continue operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one-of-a-kind issue,” he said. “We have too many ships at sea, we have too many deployed capabilities, there’s 5,000 sailors on a nuclear powered aircraft [carrier], to think that it will never happen again is not a good way to plan.”

Modly’s trip to Guam that led to his resignation reportedly cost about $243,000. 

Asked whether the trip was an appropriate use of government resources, Hyten and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, who spoke alongside him, said it is important for leaders to travel to the field even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we want to be very careful about signaling to people that senior leaders shouldn’t be getting out in the field and seeing what’s going on,” Norquist said.

“If you want to know what’s going on in Guam,” Hyten added, “where I stand right now is about the worst place to try to figure that out.”

Updated at 12:15 p.m.