After multiple credible sources, including sailors and their families, told PNC News that the U.S.S. Frank Cable (AS 40) is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak aboard, the military finally confirmed that crew members have in fact tested positive.
Estimates from those close to the ship say around 20 U.S. Navy Sailors and 10 Merchant Mariners have contracted the virus, so far.
Over the weekend, when contacted for comment, Cmdr. Cindy Fields, the spokesperson for Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet would only say, “our top priority is the safety of our crew – Sailors, Civilian Mariners, families – and the community.”
Adding that, “we live and work here in the community, which has seen positive COVID-19 cases. There’s been no impact to our mission.”
On Tuesday, Joint Region Marianas spokesperson LCDR Rick Moore confirmed the infections on the ship, saying the “USS Frank Cable has had Sailors and Civilian Mariners test positive for COVID-19. If someone tests positive they are placed in isolation. Close contacts have been identified and are in quarantine.”
Moore would not go into the specifics of how many have tested positive, or what operational changes the vessel would undertake to accommodate sanitization or changing the amount of people on-board at one time.
“The health and safety of our Sailors, Civilian Mariners, families and the community are our top priority. We appreciate and respect our partnership with the Government of Guam and local community,” added Moore.
While Fields said in her statement that “there’s been no impact to our mission,” others say the Cable has had to shut down to deal with the infection aboard. Many sailors and civilian mariners attached to the submarine tender live on Guam, both on and off the Naval Base, making it difficult to completely avoid the COVID-virus, which is seeing rampant community spread on Island.
Just recently, sailors aboard had written to PNC News anonymously, for fear of reprisal, to detail their experience on the ship after Guam re-entered PCOR 1 on August 16.
The sailors allege the Cable’s leadership blatantly disregarded social distancing orders, with one detailing “up to 1,200 people daily on the ship in tight quarters, often with no masks and no social distancing.”
There was talk of daily meetings in cramped rooms, which did not allow for proper 6-foot spacing.
One sailor told PNC News the vessel’s leadership has repeatedly told the crew not to speak of the situation aboard, as it would reflect poorly on the ship, and on them.
Sailors say the leadership’s decisions placed the crew, their families and the community at risk. This was before PNC News received word of an outbreak aboard.
When asked for comment on these allegations, Navy officials with Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii did not respond for two weeks, then issuing the same weekend statement on the COVID-outbreak: “our top priority is the safety of our crew – Sailors, Civilian Mariners, families – and the community. We live and work here in the community, which has seen positive COVID-19 cases. There’s been no impact to our mission.”
The Frank Cable, a submarine tender based in Apra Harbor, has more than 1,000 U.S. Navy Sailors and civilian mariners serving in her crew.
The ship had sequestered its crew for at least 2 months, beginning the end of March this year, in an effort to prevent the penetration and/or spread of Coronavirus aboard.
The Cable’s Commanding Officer, Albert Alarcon, had said in April the sequestration period was to ensure the health and safety of the sailors, civilian mariners, and family members.
At the time, the ship had not confirmed any COVID-19 positive crew members. The vessel was, “conducting a planned shipboard maintenance during the sequestration period.”
The decision to sequester was made as the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt moored into Guam to deal with a COVID-outbreak among her quarters at the end of March. In all, over 1,000 TR sailors tested positive for the virus, which sidelined the vessel for some 2 months in Apra Harbor.
One Roosevelt sailor died due to COVID-related complications in April; he was the first Active Duty death recorded for the U.S. military.
Further devastating the Pacific Fleet of late, is news that the Navy has also confirmed a “small number” of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan tested positive for COVID-19; the carrier recently docked on Guam for a 4-day “safe haven” liberty.
First reported by Stars and Stripes, 7th Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Reann Mommsen confirmed that Reagan sailors tested positive on August 27. The sailors then received immediate medical treatment and were taken off the ship. None needed to be hospitalized.