The USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class super carrier in service for the United States Navy, is now evacuating the majority of the ship’s 4,000-person crew amid concerns about an outbreak of the coronavirus known as Covid-19 onboard.
The Roosevelt is currently docked in Guam, where Navy officials are rapidly procuring hotel rooms for the thousands of sailors assigned to the vessel, while identifying a small number of unaffected troops to remain on board and maintain minimal operations throughout the sprawling carrier.
“Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure,” Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the Roosevelt, reportedly wrote in a memo to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
“This is a necessary risk. It will enable the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”
There have been dozens of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection aboard the ship, and although the young men and women in the Navy don’t represent a high-risk category among those infected, many will still require medical attention throughout their recovery. In order to stem the spread of the virus and ensure sailors in need receive appropriate medical attention, the decision was made to evacuate the vessel.
“The plan at this time is to remove as many people off the Teddy Roosevelt as we can, understanding that we have to leave a certain amount of folks on-board to perform normal watch-standing duties that keep the ship running,” Rear Admiral John Menoni, commander for the Marianas region, told reporters in Guam on Wednesday.
Aside from the medical professionals on board, the Roosevelt is also expecting to welcome a group of 40 health specialists from the U.S. Marine Corps to assist in further testing. Sailors that remain healthy will be housed in hotels outside of the Guam Naval Base, while those needing treatment remain aboard the installation in quarantine.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt’s Covid-19 evacuation raises concerns about senior defense officials about security in the Western Pacific, as the USS Ronald Reagan is reportedly also taking steps to ensure the spread of the coronavirus is halted as well.
“This is a unique circumstance and we’re working through it, and trying to maintain that proper balance, to ensure our friends and allies, and most importantly our foes and adversaries out there, understand that we are not standing down,” he told CNN.
“We have the responsibility to protect the seas and to protect our friends and allies around the world. We have to adjust the best way we can to do that.”
The U.S. military has enacted a number of changes in recent weeks aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, and it seems certain that more changes are coming in the weeks ahead.
You can keep up with all the latest pertinent updates and releases from the U.S. military regarding Covid-19 on our continuously updated Coronavirus Update Tracker.