The U.S. Navy has confirmed that at least 5 sailors who were recently transported back onto the USS Theodore Roosevelt, after testing negative twice, have since retested positive and are being isolated on shore, once again.
In a statement to the Pacific News Center, Navy Spokesperson, Cmdr. Myers Vasquez said, “this week, five (5) TR Sailors who previously tested COVID positive and met rigorous recovery criteria have retested positive.”
The Navy says, while onboard the Navy warship, “these five TR Sailors self-monitored and adhered to the strict social distancing protocols.”
However, the inevitable contact with others aboard the vessel, “resulted in a small number of close contacts who were also removed from the ship, quarantine and tested,” according to Vasquez. Several national media outlets have reported that a total of 18 other sailors have been removed, as part of the contact tracing.
The Navy said the five sailors in question, developed flu-like symptoms after getting back on-board, which they reported to medical personnel.
“The Sailors were immediately removed from the ship and placed back in isolation, their close contacts were mapped, and they are receiving the required medical care,” said Vasquez.
A sailor who spoke to PNC News on the basis of anonymity, said the Navy has halted the move of crew members back onto the ship altogether because of the recent positive retests.
This sailor has himself/herself retested positive, after 14 days in isolation on the Naval Base; they have not been moved to the ship and remain in isolation. They report that they continue to have symptoms of the disease, after initially testing positive nearly a month ago.
“The Navy recovery criteria exceeds all CDC guidelines. Sailors are required to isolate for a minimum of 14 days, have no symptoms at all for a minimum of three days, and are required to have two consecutive negative tests in a greater than 48 hour period prior to returning to the ship,” said Vasquez, as worries continue to rise over the health of the crew.
Despite all the strict measures, sailors are still retesting positive.
Joint Region Marianas Lt. CDR. Rick Moore told PNC News, “as of today, more than 2,900 Sailors have moved aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71),” and that, “just over a quarter of all Sailors who have tested positive for COVID-19 have now recovered.”
While the Navy stopped reporting daily numbers of new and recovered COVID-patients, at its peak, the ship reported 1,102 virus-stricken members; that’s over 22% of the entire crew.
“We remain focused on the health and safety of our Sailors, and ensuring the full recovery of all Sailors aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,” said Moore.
While JRM Rear Admiral John Menoni, and other Navy officials, have repeatedly asserted that the Navy is working to get the crew back on-board to get the ship back to sea as quickly as possible, the reappearance of the disease among sailors thought to be completely recovered, will most certainly put a wrench in plans.
When asked about when the ship could possibly be leaving Apra Harbor, Moore said, “due to operational security concerns, the U.S. Navy does not address future ship movements or operations. As the ship prepares to return to sea, the way forward is conditions-based and is dependent on the recovery of the crew.”
Ultimately the Navy wants to, “ensure that when the ship returns to sea, that it is done in a manner that ensures the ship remains clean and the crew remains healthy,” according to Moore.
“We are taking every precaution to ensure all crew members are healthy before returning them to the ship.”
In the statement, Cmdr Vasquez said, “the patriots aboard TR continue to demonstrate their toughness and the discipline necessary to prevent the spread of this virus. We are committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force. The Navy continues to exceed CDC and COVID Task Force guidelines and we continue to provide valuable data to help our nation fight this virus.”
The CDC and Navy Health Officials are conducting a serology study on the ship with volunteer sailors. When the study was announced, officials said they were trying to understand the COVID-outbreak aboard the ship to better prevent another occurrence.
“As we continue to learn more about this virus, the Navy will aggressively respond to COVID virus in accordance with the latest guidance and best practices, and then evolve and adapt as experience is gained,” said Vasquez.
In his statement to PNC News, Cmdr Moore clarified that Carrier Strike Group 9 consists of several other ships aside from Theodore Roosevelt, none of which are currently in port Guam, despite national reports.