Death of first US active duty military member comes 11 days after captain was fired for voicing concerns over safety of his crew on ship off Guam
A member of the crew of the coronavirus-infected USS Theodore Roosevelt has died of complications related to the disease, 11 days after the aircraft carriers captain was fired for pressing his concern that the US navy had done too little to safeguard his crew. The sailor was the first active-duty military member to die of Covid-19.
The navy also announced that an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Harry S Truman, which had been heading home to Norfolk, Virginia from a months-long deployment in the Middle East, would instead be kept in the Atlantic as a way to protect the crew from coronavirus.
The navy is taking this measure to maintain the strike groups warfighting capability while ensuring the safety of the crew, the navy said in a statement. There were no known coronavirus cases onboard the Truman or the other ships in its strike group.
The navy said it would evaluate this dynamic situation and provide an update to the crew of the Truman and their families in about three weeks.
The Roosevelt sailor who died was not named or identified pending notification of relatives. The sailor had tested positive for coronavirus on 30 March and was taken off the ship and placed in isolation housing along with four other sailors at the US Navy base on Guam. On 9 April he was found unresponsive during a medical check and was moved to a local hospitals intensive care unit.
Over the weekend four additional Roosevelt crew members were admitted to the hospital for monitoring of coronavirus symptoms, the navy said. All were in stable condition and none were in intensive care or on ventilators.
The death on Monday was the first among the crew of approximately 4,860 of whom 585 had tested positive for coronavirus. More than 4,000 crew members were moved ashore with a number kept on board to attend to the ships nuclear reactors and other systems.
The Roosevelt has been in a coronavirus crisis that prompted the navys civilian leader, Thomas Modly, to fire the ships captain on 2 April. Modly resigned five days later, after having flown to the ship and delivered a speech in which he insulted the skipper, Captain Brett E Crozier, and criticised the crew for supporting him.
Modly said he had felt compelled to remove Crozier from command because he had distributed too widely via email a letter in which he called for more urgent navy action to prevent a deeper coronavirus crisis onboard his ship.
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, Crozier wrote on 31 March. The letter appeared a short time later in the San Francisco Chronicle and other news media.
Croziers words angered Modly but were seen by others as necessary. Modly said the letter was inappropriate and that Crozier had failed to consult sufficiently with his immediate superior before writing it. Donald Trump initially criticised Crozier for writing the letter but later said he didnt want Croziers career ruined over a single mistake. Navy officials have not ruled out the possibility of Crozier being reinstated.
Pentagon leaders anticipate the coronavirus may strike more navy ships at sea.