USS Roosevelt Sailors get tested for COVID-19 antibodies

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 19, 2020) U.S. Navy Master Chief Michael Mashburn, command master chief of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), right, gives blood to U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Guterrez, from Dededo, Guam, assigned to Operational Health Support Unit San Diego, Detachment K, to test for COVID-19 antibodies June 19, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robyn B. Melvin)

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) are participating in voluntary COVID-19 antibody testing Friday, June 19, 2020.

Thousands of Sailors from the aircraft carrier and the embarked staffs signed on to have their blood drawn which will then be analyzed for antibodies indicating whether or not each Sailor has had a previous exposure to COVID-19.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Pavlicek, a microbiologist from Navy Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit Six in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, who is embarked aboard Theodore Roosevelt to help administer the tests, the science behind COVID-19 antibody testing is still in the development stage.

“The science on this test is relatively new and we do not know if the antibodies resulting from infection will provide future immunity,” said Pavlicek. “We do know it is important for the Navy to provide Sailors with leading-edge medical care and testing, and that this kind of information can also help primary care physicians in providing the best healthcare possible to each and every Sailor.”

The test requires medical personnel to draw a small amount of blood from each crew member, which will then be shipped to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

“An antibody test looks for the presence of specific protective proteins made by the body in response to infections,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Maybelle Lania, lab technician and leading petty officer of Theodore Roosevelt’s medical department. “This test can detect COVID-19 specific antibodies in most people who have had an infection, whether they knew it or not.”

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Ahmad Hammad tested negative for the virus while the ship was in Guam but still signed up for the testing.

“I’m mainly curious about whether I had it,” said Hammad. “I never tested positive but I am doing it to help our medical staff find a solution to this disease.”

“While this antibody testing won’t contribute to vaccine development directly, this will help the Navy develop tools for future outbreak response and will provide each sailor with information on their current state of health,” said Pavlicek.

Theodore Roosevelt is the nation’s fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000 Sailors who support and conduct air operations at sea. Theodore Roosevelt departed San Diego for a scheduled Indo-Pacific deployment January 17.

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung Yi;USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)