Navy Reports 3 New COVID-19 Cases on Carrier that Had Massive 2020 Outbreak

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Apra Harbor in Guam
In this June 4, 2020, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Apra Harbor in Guam. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy via AP)

There are new coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

Three sailors aboard the Roosevelt tested positive Sunday for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That's the same carrier that was sidelined for weeks last year when the virus infected more than 1,200 crew members, killing one.

The three sailors to test positive this weekend haven't shown any symptoms for the illness and are isolated aboard the ship, along with all identified close contacts, the service said in a statement Monday night.

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The Roosevelt crew is following an "aggressive" virus mitigation strategy, U.S. Pacific Fleet officials said, which includes mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, and proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

"U.S. Pacific Fleet is committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force. USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently underway and remains fully operational," the statement adds.

The Roosevelt experienced the Navy's worst COVID-19 outbreak last year, leading to thousands of crew members being evacuated in Guam. The ship's commanding officer was relieved as cases were spreading among the crew, and the acting Navy secretary later resigned in connection with the crisis.

The situation led to intense scrutiny over how military leaders were ensuring troops' safety during the pandemic, particularly aboard ships where social distancing can be difficult due to tight living spaces and shared common areas. The Defense Department's inspector general also found that most Navy commands weren't following pandemic training requirements before COVID-19 hit.

"We know we need to improve and are focused on implementing recommendations in the report," Lt. Emily Wilkin, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said last week in response to the IG's report. "The Navy's pandemic plan worked rather well, considering only two out of nearly 300 Navy ships suffered serious COVID-19 outbreaks. Commanders at all levels share the responsibility to ensure that their units are trained and equipped to meet the mission that the Navy and the Nation places on them."

The Roosevelt departed San Diego on Dec. 23. The carrier, along with other ships assigned to its strike group, conducted operations in the South China Sea in January.

Navy officials this weekend vaccinated about 5,000 members of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on the East Coast ahead of their upcoming deployment. Leaders said last week that they're actively pushing to get crews on other aircraft carriers access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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