The captain of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt that is docked on Guam has asked permission to isolate most of his crew members onshore.
In a memo to Navy leaders, Captain B.E. Crozier wrote that the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating, and removing all but 10% of the crew is a “necessary risk” in order to stop the spread of the virus.
In his letter, the Captain wrote:
“This is a necessary risk … Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. 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.”
An ABC News affiliate reports that Navy leaders are scrambling to determine how to best respond to the extraordinary request as dozens of crew members tested positive.
A U.S. Navy official said Crozier alerted commanders on Sunday evening of the continuing challenges in isolating the virus.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Crozier wants more isolated housing for the crew and that Navy leadership is reviewing options to ensure the health and safety of the crew.
The USS Roosevelt departed from San Diego on January 17th for an “Indo-Pacific” deployment and is part of U.S. 3rd Fleet, which leads naval forces in the pacific.
In Asia, a carrier presence is central to what the Pentagon has identified as a fundamental shift from fighting insurgent and extremist conflicts in the Middle East to a return to “great power competition.” That means, principally, a bigger focus on China, including its militarization of disputed areas of the South China Sea.
The carrier, like other Navy ships, is vulnerable to infectious disease spread given its close quarters. The massive ship is more than 1,000 feet long; sailors are spread out across a labyrinth of decks linked by steep ladder-like stairs and narrow corridors. Enlisted sailors and officers have separate living quarters, but they routinely grab their food from crowded buffet lines and eat at tables joined end-to-end.