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Navy completes probe into coronavirus outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Philippine Sea, May 25, 2020.

ZACHARY WHEELER/U.S. NAVY

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 27, 2020

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The Navy’s top officer is reviewing recommendations from an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the spokesman for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Wednesday.

More than 1,150 Roosevelt sailors — one of whom died — tested positive for the illness after the outbreak began aboard the aircraft carrier in March. It immediately diverted to Guam to seek treatment for some sailors, quarantine others and sanitize the vessel.

“The Chief of Naval Operations has received and is reviewing the command investigation into the events surrounding the [coronavirus] outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,” Gilday spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “It will take time for the investigation’s recommendations to be reviewed and endorsed by [Gilday]."

The investigation was launched at Gilday’s request after he reviewed the results of a preliminary inquiry into the outbreak prompted by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s removal of the ship’s commander in April.

Modly made the decision after a letter Capt. Brett Crozier wrote pleading for help for his crew was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and picked up by media worldwide. Modly said Crozier broke his chain of command with the letter to make Navy leaders aware of his concerns about the outbreak.

“The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating,” Crozier wrote March 30. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”

Modly received backlash from sailors and lawmakers for removing Crozier and resigned about a week later when a recording of a speech he gave to the Roosevelt’s crew was leaked to the public. He called Crozier “too naïve or too stupid” to command the carrier.

Details on the investigation’s findings were not immediately available. In a statement last month, Christensen said the report would “provide a more robust documentation of events and give a fuller consideration of the circumstances surrounding the matter.”

The Roosevelt returned to sea for carrier qualification flights for its aircrew last week. After qualifications are completed, the remainder of the crew will re-embark, according to a statement May 18.

The carrier has been away from its San Diego homeport since it left for patrol on Jan. 17.

doornbos.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

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