US Navy: working to secure Guam hotels for sailor-isolation ‘ASAP’

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Rear Adm. John C. Aquilino. Photo: U.S. Navy

U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral J.C. Aquilino said they’re working “with urgency” on plans to quarantine and isolate sailors on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

As the U.S. Navy is utilizing all of their assets on Guam for the COVID-19 positive sailors, Aquilino said, and now they’re working with Adelup to secure hotels or facilities on Island. The timeline? “ASAP,” according to the Admiral.

The Navy Admiral held a national news conference Wednesday from Washington, to update media, including PNC News, on the COVID-19 situation aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.

The Roosevelt is currently docked at the Apra Harbor, after arriving to Guam, Friday.

On the call, Aquilino would not specify how many of the 4,000-plus sailors and crew have so far tested positive. Nor did he comment on how many tests have been completed thus far, citing operational safety.

He did emphasize that he cannot completely empty the ship of all sailors, as there are basic operational needs for the ship to be maintained.

“What I will say, is that there’s never been an intent to pull all the sailors off of that ship. If that ship needed to respond to a crisis today, we will respond,” said the Navy leader.

“We need damage control, fire fighting capabilities, people to feed remaining crew members,” said the Admiral.

The emphasis on the need to maintain at least some sailors on board, comes after the Roosevelt’s captain, Capt. Brett Crozier, wrote a pleading letter to Navy officials in Washington, requesting to isolate and quarantine all of the over 4000 aboard, on land in Guam.

“We undertand the request [from the Captain]. We’ve been working it in advance, we continue to work it. And, I’m optimistic that the additional isolation and quarantine capacity that’s being discussed, will be delivered shortly,” confirmed the Admiral.

The Admiral said on the call, that the U.S. Navy is in talks with Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and the administration, on possibly using local hotel(s) for the sequestering effort.

He did clearly say however, that it will not be the entire crew and, that it will not be at the speed at which Captain Crozier is requesting.

“As some people compare a cruise liner to a U.S. Navy warship, let me just say, there are no comparisons,” said the Admiral, noting that the ship is propelled by two nuclear reactors, has aircraft aboard and many other functions that require the efforts of the sailors.

In his memo to Navy leaders, Captain Crozier said the disease is ongoing and accelerating. He acknowledged the need for people on board but said, removing all but 10% of the crew, is a “necessary risk” in order to stop the spread of the virus.

He goes on to say, “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,” said Crozier in his memo sent Monday this week.

Aquilino said, in no uncertain terms, the entire ship will not be vacated, as requested by the Captain. However, he did say there are response plans in place to deal with the situation.

“We’re executing an approach to getting fully health, completely COVID-free sailors,” said Aquilino.

The Admiral explained that as it stands now, sailors are pulled off the ship to be tested and quarantined, then rotated back into the crew cycle.

“That rotational process, to take them off, ensure they’re isolated and quarantined through 14-days restricted movement. Then a follow-on test. That is the best way and…the most accurate way to validate that a sailor does not have the disease.”

Aquilino went onto say, “the flow plan allows us to take some number of sailors off…work the remaining sailors through this testing/quarantine/isolation model, then clean the ship, and put only healthy sailors back on the ship. That is the process and flow we’re trying to do.”

If a sailor tests positive, then they’ll be isolated. This flow will continue until all the sailors are tested.

The Admiral explained that for those quarantined on ship, they’re following CDC guidelines, “to the best of our ability.”

He said they’re implementing social distancing, they clean the ship several times a day and encourage increased personal hygiene and etiquette. The Admiral acknowledged the challenges with fully cleaning and sanitizing a warship, simply due to the nature of its design.

As for the sailors who have already tested positive from the ship, the Admiral said they’re all in isolation, with no severe symptoms.

“I have no sailors hospitalized. I have no sailors on ventilators. I have no sailors in critical condition. No sailors in an ICU status on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

Aquilino explained that typically, the average age of crew aboard a carrier, is early 20s.

“I’m happy that the health of the force that we take to sea, plays in our favor. And the age overall of the force, plays in our favor,” said Admiral Aquilino with regards to the COVID-19 effects on sailors.

Click here to listen to the full news conference with Admiral Aquilino.