The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Apra Harbor and operates in the Philippine Sea May 21, 2020, following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
WASHINGTON – The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier is back at sea for the first time in nearly two months after a coronavirus outbreak onboard infected more than 1,100 sailors.
The U.S. Navy said the ship entered the Philippine Sea Thursday “to conduct carrier qualification flights for the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11.”
The ship arrived in Guam on March 27 after an outbreak of the coronavirus. All of the nearly 5,000 sailors onboard were tested for COVID-19 in the following weeks.
One Roosevelt sailor died from the virus on April 13, and nine others were hospitalized. The Navy said most of the approximately 1,140 crewmembers who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic.
More than 1,500 crewmembers remain at Naval Base Guam, including about 700 who had tested positive during the outbreak, a Navy official told VOA on Thursday. Fourteen of those sailors had recovered from the virus but then tested positive again, according to the official.
A Navy press release said there were enough crewmembers onboard to complete the current mission requirement.
“Carrier qualification requires fewer personnel than other missions, and bringing fewer sailors on board will enable enhanced social distancing while underway,” said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer.
The carrier is the focus of an ongoing investigation into how the coronavirus outbreak was handled onboard. At the center of the review lies the fate of Brett Crozier, the Roosevelt’s captain during the outbreak who was removed from his post for raising COVID-19 concerns in an email to superiors.
Former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, who fired Crozier, resigned after audio was publicly released of him calling Crozier “too naïve or too stupid to be the commanding officer” for sending his letter of concern to at least 20 Navy personnel.
The Navy now has seven aircraft carriers deployed at sea across the globe, including the USS Ronald Reagan, which left its port in Japan on Wednesday for operations also in the Philippine Sea.