Coronavirus Hits Another US Navy Ship


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WASHINGTON - The coronavirus has struck another U.S. Navy ship, with 18 of the USS Kidd destroyer's sailors testing positive so far as the ship quickly heads to port.

How the invisible coronavirus managed to emerge on the decks of the destroyer so long after the ship's last port stop remains a mystery, Navy officials told VOA on Friday.

The Kidd left its port in Hawaii on March 20, according to Navy officials. More than a month later, the first sailor showed symptoms, was evacuated and subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Source a mystery

Officials who spoke with VOA did not yet know if there had been any helicopter supply flights to the destroyer since its departure date. If none, the Kidd outbreak may be proof that the incubation period for COVID-19 may be much longer than the two-to-14-day range initially believed.

"How are we supposed to be able to keep a ship clean?" a Navy official said while discussing the situation.

The latest outbreak came as the defense secretary met with Navy leadership Friday to discuss the results of an investigation into the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, the first Navy ship to experience a major COVID-19 outbreak at sea. To date, at least 856 of the Roosevelt's nearly 5,000 sailors have tested positive.

Media reports said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday had recommended reinstating the Roosevelt's captain, who was removed from his post for raising COVID-19 concerns via an email to superiors. Captain Brett Crozier's fate still hangs in the balance, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Secretary of the Navy James McPherson consider Gilday's recommendation.

"No final decisions have been made," the Navy said late Friday in response to the media reports.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Esper would follow his "verbal update" from Gilday and McPherson on Friday with a thorough review of a written copy of the inquiry before "discuss[ing] next steps."

The previous acting Navy secretary who fired the captain resigned after audio was released to the public in which he called 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 said Friday that the first Kidd sailor to show COVID-19 symptoms was medically evacuated off the ship Thursday and was in stable condition at a medical treatment center in San Antonio, Texas.

300 sailors tested

Within 24 hours of the positive coronavirus diagnosis, the Navy deployed a medical team to the ship to conduct contact tracing and additional onsite testing of the ship's roughly 300 sailors.

"Testing continues, and we expect additional cases," the Navy said in a statement.

The Kidd was in the eastern Pacific as part of the increased counternarcotics mission of U.S. Southern Command.

The ship will return to port, where the crew will continue to disinfect the ship.