Navy Has 1st Coronavirus Case on a Ship Days After Family Event Onboard

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Sailors and family members in the well deck of the USS Boxer
Sailors and their family members watch a Landing Craft; Utility 1680 (LCU); enter the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC). (Logan A. Southerland/U.S. Navy)

A sailor from the amphibious assault ship Boxer is believed to have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease just nine days after military family members visited the ship at sea.

This marks the first coronavirus, or COVID-19, case for a sailor who was aboard a Navy ship. The person is now quarantined at home, Navy officials said in a Sunday night news release. The sailor's test result for the sometimes-fatal virus is considered presumptive positive, pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This will likely be a new challenge for the sea service, since infections and viruses can spread quickly among crew members who live in close quarters. That has been the case for several civilian cruise liners, which has resulted in widespread cancellations for the industry.

Sailors and family members aboard the USS Boxer
Sailors and their family members watch an AH-1W Super Cobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, take off on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC). (Logan A. Southerland/U.S. Navy)

The San Diego-based Boxer on March 9 held a family day cruise, allowing military families to visit the crew on the ship in the Pacific Ocean, according to official Navy photos. Civilians can be seen riding a Landing Craft Utility vessel into the Boxer's well deck and standing on the ship's flight deck observing Marine Corps helicopter takeoffs at sea.

Related: Pentagon Bans Domestic Travel for Troops, Families As Coronavirus Spreads

Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions from Military.com about whether one of those family members is believed to have unwittingly exposed the crew member to the coronavirus. It's not immediately clear how many family members were on the ship as part of the event or how many sailors and Marines were onboard.

Personnel who came in close contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation in their homes, according to the Navy news release. None of those people are currently onboard the ship.

Military health officials are working to determine whether any additional personnel were at risk of exposure, the release adds.

"Depending on the results of that investigation, additional mitigations may be taken," it states.

Navy ships are routinely cleaned to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

"USS Boxer is taking appropriate preventative measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the CDC and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center," the release says.

The service closely coordinating with state, federal and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of Navy personnel and the local population, officials said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read More: East Coast-Based Marines Will Take Operational Pause Amid Coronavirus Crisis

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