Pentagon chief: USS Kidd coronavirus outbreak may have come from counter-drug operation

Pentagon chief: USS Kidd coronavirus outbreak may have come from counter-drug operation
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Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Official: Pentagon has started 'prudent planning' for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May MORE on Monday said the Navy’s second coronavirus outbreak at sea could have been picked up through a counter-narcotics operation.

“We're not sure where she picked it up, it may have been through a counter-drug operation,” Esper said of the USS Kidd destroyer.

The Kidd — originally deployed near Central America but now in port in San Diego to be cleaned — was the second U.S. warship to be hit with a coronavirus outbreak after the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

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The Navy became aware of the outbreak aboard the Kidd last month after a sailor needed to be medically evacuated to a treatment facility in San Antonio, Texas.

Asked about the risks of being sequestered aboard a vessel during the COVID-19 pandemic, Esper said that “statistics show the safest place to be is on a deployed Navy ship as compared to one that’s in port.”

“Of the 90-plus ships we have at sea we only have two that have been affected. ... Two ships out of I think 94 is a pretty good record.”

He added that the Navy “has learned from the Teddy Roosevelt.”

The coronavirus outbreak aboard the Theodore Roosevelt in March became national news when the ship’s former commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, wrote a letter pleading with Navy leadership for help with the outbreak.

After the letter leaked to the media, Crozier was fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who later resigned after he gave a speech aboard the Roosevelt criticizing the captain.

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The Navy has since moved most of the 4,800-person crew ashore to Guam, where the Roosevelt is docked while the ship handles the outbreak.

The service has tested all of the crew on both ships, and nearly 100 sailors from the Kidd were found to have tested positive for the illness, according to Navy numbers from last week.

The Navy said at the time it would no longer release the exact number of coronavirus cases aboard the two ships, and will only report “significant changes.”

The last official count for the Roosevelt was Thursday’s 1,102 active cases and 53 recovered cases.