Navy Sailor Dies in Guam After Virus Outbreak Aboard Carrier

(Bloomberg) -- A sailor aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which docked in Guam after cases of the coronavirus began spreading on the aircraft carrier, has died after receiving treatment in intensive care, the Navy said in a statement.

The sailor, whose name is being withheld for now, tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30. He was found unresponsive during a medical check on April 9 and died from complications related to the virus on Monday, according to the statement.

“This is a great loss for the ship and for our Navy,” Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement. “We pledge our full support to the ship and crew as they continue their fight against the coronavirus.”

Navy Sailor Dies in Guam After Virus Outbreak Aboard Carrier

The death comes about two weeks after the captain of the Roosevelt, Brett Crozier, was dismissed by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly for writing a memo warning the service about the potentially dire situation aboard the carrier because of the outbreak. In the memo, which leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, he said, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”

Modly week resigned last week after widespread criticism of his move and subsequent comments to his crew criticizing Crozier’s leadership. Crozier has been in quarantine after contracting the virus.

The Navy is conducting an investigation of the events. Admiral Gilday “has received and is reviewing the preliminary inquiry,” Commander Nate Christensen, his spokesman, said in an email Monday. He said “it will take time” for Gilday to do so.

Crozier’s main request -- that the vast majority of the crew be taken off the ship so the spread of the virus could be slowed and the ship cleaned -- is effectively underway now. The Navy’s latest report said 585 crew members have tested positive for the virus, while 4,021 of the ship’s approximately 4,900 crew members have moved ashore.

The Roosevelt’s 585 positive cases represent more than half of the Navy’s 1,150 cases, which include sailors, civilians and contractors.

Some crew must remain aboard to tend to the nuclear reactors that power the Roosevelt as well as to safeguard its weapons and perform other critical functions.

The drama over the Roosevelt drew the attention of key lawmakers as well as President Donald Trump, who criticized Crozier’s memo but said he didn’t think the Roosevelt’s departing commander deserved to have his career tarnished by the fracas.

“You have two good people and they are arguing,” Trump said, referring to Modly and Crozier.

It’s unclear when the Roosevelt will be able to resume its patrol of the Pacific and South China Sea or whether the Pentagon is reconsidering Modly’s decision to relieve Crozier of command as part of its investigation. Regardless, the incidents involving the Roosevelt have only underscored broader turmoil in the Navy’s leadership and its relations with Trump.

Modly had served as acting secretary since November. His predecessor as Navy secretary, Richard Spencer, was fired amid a Pentagon dust-up over Trump’s insistence that a Navy SEAL acquitted of murder should be allowed to keep a Trident decoration signifying his service.

Trump announced in February that he intended to nominate Kenneth Braithwaite as Navy secretary, a position that would require Senate confirmation. Braithwaite, a Navy veteran, is currently U.S. ambassador to Norway.

In the meantime, James McPherson, who was confirmed by the Senate last month as undersecretary of the Army, is the new acting Navy secretary. He’s a former Navy admiral, having served as its highest legal officer, judge advocate general, before retiring from the Navy service in 2006.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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