Navy Testing All 5,000 Sailors on the Carrier Roosevelt as COVID-19 Cases Spike

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USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Base Guam
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Base Guam after a regularly scheduled port call, Nov. 4, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo/Anthony J. Rivera)

A deployed Navy aircraft carrier has stopped in Guam and will test its entire crew for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus as several more crew members have contracted the disease.

All the roughly 5,000 personnel aboard the carrier Theodore Roosevelt will be tested for COVID-19, the sometimes-dangerous disease caused by the coronavirus, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Wednesday.

Three sailors tested positive for the illness earlier this week. Now, nearly two dozen other sailors on the ship also have COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

“We found several more cases onboard the ship,” Modly told reporters from the Pentagon on Thursday. “We are in the process now of testing 100% of the crew of that ship to ensure we are able to contain whatever spreads might've occurred there on the ship.

“But I also want to emphasize that the ship is operationally capable and can do its mission.”

Related: Navy Reports 1st Coronavirus Cases on Deployed Warship

There are currently about 800 COVID-19 test kits on the Roosevelt. Modly said additional supplies to test the rest of the crew, including swabs and other materials, are being flown out to the carrier Thursday.

Once the tests are administered onboard, they’ll be flown off the ship to a Defense Department lab. Medical Officer of the Marine Corps Rear Adm. James Hancock said the military is working with industry partners to add “point-of-care” testing onto ships.

“But we’re just not there yet,” Hancock said.

While the ship is in Guam, Modly said no one aboard the Roosevelt will be allowed to leave pier side. Those who already tested positive for COVID-19 who’ve been flown off the ship are quarantined on Guam, he added. None has required hospitalization.

“Their symptoms are very mild -- aches and pains and those types of things, sore throats,” Modly said.

The Navy has 104 COVID-19 cases among active-duty personnel. That’s about a third of the cases across the Defense Department branches.

“I don't have a reason for that,” the acting Navy secretary said. “It would be speculation for me to give you a reason for why that has happened.”

There are Navy personnel spread across the globe, he added, with high concentrations of sailors in San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.

“But we have not done the forensics yet on where these individual sailors contracted the disease,” Modly said. “And until we know that exists, it would be irresponsible for me to say why we think this is happening.”

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

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