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Navy says it will no longer publicly name ships infected coronavirus cases as outbreak spreads

Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America watch as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sails alongside in February of 2020.

THEODORE C. LEE/U.S. NAVY

By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: March 21, 2020

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — Two San Diego-based shipboard sailors are among four new cases of coronavirus among San Diego's military community, the Navy and Marine Corps announced Friday.

However, in a departure from previous cases, the Navy's Pacific Fleet is no longer naming the ships those sailors are stationed aboard — only that they are on two different vessels.

When asked why the Navy decided not to name the ships, Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, the Pacific Fleet public affairs officer, directed The San Diego Union-Tribune to an emailed statement that reads: "U.S. Pacific Fleet's policy is to only release the number of positive cases and the geographic location of those sailors."

The policy is a departure from one the Navy followed earlier on Friday when it released the command — Naval Air Forces — of a North Island sailor who tested positive for the virus.

That sailor, and a Marine training at Camp Pendleton, also tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the services announced Friday.

The sailor is assigned to Naval Air Forces at NAS North Island and the Marine is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Military medical officials are conducting contact investigations as has become routine as more service members in the area contract the virus.

Marines are keeping their members under quarantine at base barracks while sailors who test positive are in isolation at their homes.

Friday's announcements bring the total number of active-duty military in San Diego testing positive for COVID-19 to 13. The first case — a Marine — was announced on March 12, just nine days ago.

The military cases in San Diego include:

Three sailors at a Naval Base San Diego schoolhouseThree Marines at Marine Corps Air Station MiramarTwo sailors on the USS BoxerOne sailor on the USS CoronadoOne sailor at Naval Air Station North IslandOne Marine at Camp PendletonTwo sailors on two undisclosed shipsThe military, however, is not testing every member with symptoms of the novel coronavirus, officials have said. According to Naval Medical Forces Pacific, only sailors and Marines who meet a certain illness threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be tested.

That threshold includes a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, symptoms of acute respiratory illness and a connection to a known COVID-19 case or recent travel to a high-risk area.

San Diego-area military bases are beefing up restrictions on base as many in California are being directed to remain at home by the state's governor, Gavin Newsom.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar have each suspended non-essential and recreational activities. On Friday, Camp Pendleton closed its gyms and fitness centers — the last base in the area to do so.

The Navy, which already limited much of its non-essential functions on San Diego bases earlier this week, issued sweeping restrictions on all its installations in the continental U.S. and Alaska Friday.

These restrictions include no handshaking, practicing social distancing and avoiding groups of more than 10 people, as well as limiting or canceling in-person meetings.

The restrictions fall under what the military calls its "Health Protection Conditions," a series of escalating regulations ranging from "A," which includes limited restrictions, and "D," which includes severe restrictions — base quarantine.

Naval installations, as of Friday, have set their HPCON to "C (minus)," which stops short of requiring medical screenings at base entrances. The Marine Corps, at Miramar and Camp Pendleton, remain at HPCON B.

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