Coronavirus revisits USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier nearly a year after outbreak

Sailors observe flight operations on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea, Feb. 12, 2021.


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2021

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Three sailors have contracted the coronavirus on the same aircraft carrier where an outbreak of the disease last year led to the firing of the skipper and the resignation of the secretary of the Navy.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors have not experienced symptoms and are isolated on the ship, the Navy said Tuesday. Those who have had recent contact with the sailors are now quarantining.

“The ship is following an aggressive mitigation strategy in accordance with Navy and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines to include mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and proper hygiene and sanitation practices,” a Navy statement said. “U.S. Pacific Fleet is committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force.”

The Theodore Roosevelt last year suffered the Navy’s largest coronavirus outbreak aboard a ship to date. It diverted to Guam on March 26 to address that outbreak, which resulted in 1,271 testing positive for the virus. One crew member died.

That outbreak made additional headlines when then-Navy Secretary Thomas Modly fired the Theodore Roosevelt’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, after a letter he wrote seeking help was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.

His dismissal elicited an immediate backlash from Washington, but Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday ultimately upheld the decision, citing failures in Crozier’s leadership aside from the letter.

This is not the first time since the major outbreak that a Theodore Roosevelt sailor has tested positive for coronavirus. At least two tested positive in October and were evacuated as the carrier trained off the California coast, the Navy said at the time.

The Theodore Roosevelt last week joined the USS Nimitz in the South China Sea for a rare dual-carrier exercise. Despite the three sailors testing positive, the ship “is currently underway and remains fully operational,” according to the statement.

The Navy did not say where the San Diego-based carrier is operating, but official photos showed it in the South China Sea on Saturday.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos