Overnight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with outbreak | Pentagon shipment of ventilators delayed | Pompeo urges countries to be more 'transparent' with virus data

Overnight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with outbreak | Pentagon shipment of ventilators delayed | Pompeo urges countries to be more 'transparent' with virus data
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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: The captain of a U.S. aircraft carrier stricken by the coronavirus is pleading with Navy officials for help to stem the spread of the disease aboard the ship, which is now docked in Guam.

In a memo obtained and published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, warned of dire consequences if the majority of the crew is not taken off the ship and isolated.

"This will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do," Crozier wrote about finding individualized lodging for crew members. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset -- our sailors."

The Navy's response: Asked by The Hill for comment on the memo, a Navy official said in a statement that Crozier "alerted leadership in the Pacific Fleet on Sunday evening of continuing challenges in isolating the virus."

"The ship's commanding officer advocated for housing more members of the crew in facilities that allow for better isolation," the statement said. "Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer."

Sailors being moved: In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said he heard about Crozier's letter that morning, with Navy commanders "aware of this for about 24 hours." Modly said the Navy is working to move sailors off the ship.

"The problem is that Guam doesn't have enough beds right now, and so we're having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create some tent-type facilities there," Modly said.

"But we don't disagree with the [commanding officer] on that ship, and we're doing it in a very methodical way because it's not the same as a cruise ship," he continued. "I mean, that ship has armaments on it. It has aircraft on it. We have to be able to fight fires if there are fires on board the ship. We have to run a nuclear power plant."

Earlier...: The Navy first confirmed positive coronavirus cases aboard the Roosevelt a week ago, and on Thursday, officials announced the ship would dock in Guam while all 4,000-plus people aboard are tested for COVID-19.

A senior officer on board the ship told the Chronicle that 150 to 200 sailors had tested positive as of Monday.

The carrier was last in port in mid-March in Danang, Vietnam. At the time, Vietnam had 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Officials have previously said the coronavirus aboard the Roosevelt may not necessarily be tied to the port visit since aircraft regularly land on the ship, bringing in new people from outside the command.

Warnings: In his memo, Crozier warned that if the Navy focuses on being ready for a war over stopping the spread of the virus, "there will be losses."

Alternatively, he wrote, the Navy could work to "achieve a COVID-free TR." That would require "strict adherence" to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and a "methodical approach" to cleaning the ship, steps that demand "immediate and decisive action" and will take "time and money," he added.

"As war is not imminent, we recommend pursuing the peace time end state," he wrote.

The plan: That plan would require offloading all but about 10 percent of the crew, who would need to stay aboard to run the ship's nuclear reactor, sanitize the ship, keep it secure and respond to any emergencies, the memo says.

Those taken off the ship will need lodging in compliance with CDC and Navy guidance, Crozier added.

Crozier wrote that it is impossible to follow guidance from the CDC or the Navy on isolating people for 14 days while on board the ship.

"Due to a warship's inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this," he wrote. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating."

The Roosevelt has moved a small percentage of crew off the ship, increased frequency of cleaning and "attempted some" social distancing, Crozier said, but that will only slow the virus's spread.

"The current plan in execution on TR will not achieve virus eradication on any timeline," he said.


More on the coronavirus pandemic...


Ventilators on hold: The Pentagon has not shipped out any of the 2,000 ventilators it offered to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this month because HHS has not yet provided a shipping location, multiple outlets reported on Tuesday.

Though the Defense Department had planned to deliver an initial 1,000 ventilators, HHS asked the department to wait, Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, the Pentagon's top logistics official, told a small group of reporters.

"There was discussion with HHS on where to send them. And then they said 'hey wait, we're trying to take a look at the demand that's required,' and so we were asked to just wait while there was just some sorting through," Tuck said, according to CNN.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon orders active-duty police units on ready to deploy to Minneapolis: AP Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE had announced two weeks ago that the Pentagon would give the deployable ventilators, as well as 5 million respirator masks, to HHS in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuck said that the department is ready to ship the initial 1,000 ventilators as soon as HHS provides a location, and the other 1,000 can be shipped within days of getting an order.

He added that about 1.5 million of the 5 million respirator masks have been sent with another 500,000 to be shipped this week. HHS has not yet asked for the remaining 3 million.


NY lawmaker to deploy: Rep. Max RoseMax RoseGun control group rolls out House endorsements Max Rose calls on Trump to use Defense Production Act to ensure small businesses have PPE 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday he plans to deploy with the National Guard to assist with coronavirus response in his Staten Island district in the coming weeks.

Rose, a captain in the Army National Guard and combat veteran, said in a statement the deployment will start on April 1 and he plans to serve as an operations officer.

"Over the past month I have seen acts of incredible bravery and sacrifice by our first responders, nurses, doctors, and essential workers who never thought they'd be on the frontlines of a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic," his statement said.  

"My activation and deployment is nothing compared to what our city, state, and country has asked of all them. And it's certainly nothing compared to the other men and women serving in uniform both here at home and overseas. I am just trying to do my duty and my small part." 


Pompeo asks countries to 'step up' with transparency: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse, Senate panels to question ousted State Dept. inspector general on Wednesday: report National security adviser says foreign powers trying to exploit US race relations Britain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong MORE, who has been critical of China's reporting of coronavirus cases, is calling on nations to "step up" efforts to share "accurate, transparent information" to help the world fight the pandemic.

"When you hear [Trump administration officials] talk about risk, talk about fatalities, trying to think about how to model, what they need is data. They need data from Italy. They need data from China. They need data from Iran," Pompeo told Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity scolds Ozarks partygoers: 'Could be a disaster' for vulnerable Americans Trump lashes out at Fox News after poll shows him trailing Biden Trump complains Fox News is 'doing nothing to help' him get reelected MORE, who was hosting his show from Pier 90 in Manhattan where a naval hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is docked, late Monday.

"We need every country to step up and provide accurate, transparent information," Pompeo continued. "And if we can't have that, if we have disinformation instead, there are more lives that will be at risk not only today but in the weeks ahead as we battle this enormous challenge."

"We've asked every country to step up, tell us what they know so that the world can learn," he added. "America will then turn around and we will share the information we get. And we'll keep people safe not only here in the United States but all across the world."

China is claiming that no new cases of coronavirus were reported on Monday in Wuhan city and Hubei province, which was the center of the pandemic's outbreak. 

Its reporting, however, has been met with skepticism by administration officials and U.S. lawmakers.

Pompeo last week said China was putting "thousands of lives at risk" by withholding information.



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