The captain of the nuclear aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt is begging for help while the coronavirus quickly spreads among the crew.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that between 150 and 200 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 on the carrier of more than 4,000. Capt. Brett Crozier wrote a four-page letter begging the Navy for help while they're docked in Guam.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote, according to the Chronicle. “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.”
While only a small group of sailors have been infected thus far, and have been off-boarded from the Roosevelt, there's a concern that those remaining aboard the carrier came in contact with the virus.
“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier explained. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
He asked the Navy for “compliant quarantine rooms” onshore in Guam for his entire crew “as soon as possible.”
“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. ... This is a necessary risk,” Crozier continued. “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.”
None of the sailors are on ventilators and they haven't exhibited severe symptoms, but the concern is that the cases jumped significantly and quickly.
Last week, military officials said that all 4,000 of the sailors on board would be tested for the virus. They promised swift action and care, but over the weekend, the number of those experiencing symptoms exploded.
Capt. Crozier wrote in his letter than if the carrier was operating during wartime they would figure it out and continue their operations.
“However, we are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily,” Crozier wrote. “Decisive action is required now in order to comply with CDC and (Navy) guidance and prevent tragic outcomes.”
President Donald Trump has described the coronavirus threat as a "war against an invisible enemy." However, that does not mean that an official act of war has been declared.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, who served during former President Ronald Reagan's administration, explained that for a captain to issue a letter like Capt. Crozier's is "very unusual" because his position would be on track to becoming an admiral.
“It shows that this is a person who is putting the welfare of his sailors ahead of his career,” said Korb, a retired Navy captain.
The USS Boxer, docked in San Diego, learned last week that one of its crew had tested positive. The ship then drew criticism when it called a meeting of officers and sailors in a cramped room on the ship to give them the information about social distancing, ProPublica reported.
According to one sailor, the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and all 80 members were forced to stand roughly 2 to 4 feet apart. Far less than the 6 feet cited as safe by the Center for Disease Control.