THE MILITARY’S second-highest ranking officer on Thursday warned of a new coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier about to embark on a deployment to the Pacific as the military struggles to contain the spread of the virus that has already sidelined crewmembers from another carrier.
There’s been a very small number of breakouts on the Nimitz, and we’re watching that very closely,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday about the 5,000-member crews. He said that those sailors have “been isolated on the ship.”
Hyten pointed to the inherent problem of containing the spread of the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, aboard a ship in which many crewmembers share quarters, sometimes with as many as two dozen sleeping in bunks in one room. Not enough local hotel space exists in Bremerton, Washington, where the ship is based, for its commanders to quarantine crew members, so they’re attempting to isolate them on board, the general said.
As the crew of the Nimitz prepares the ship for the upcoming departure, members are under a 14-day travel restriction – limiting personal leave and isolating those who may have come into contact with a person infected by the virus – in an attempt to stem the spread, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday wrote in a message to all sailors late Wednesday updating them on the effect of the coronavirus across the service.
Politico first reported the cases of the coronavirus on the Nimitz, the fourth of the Navy’s 11 carriers to have documented the spread of the disease on board. The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson also have reports of small numbers of coronavirus cases among their crews.
Thursday’s news represented a troubling problem for the U.S. military as it struggles to contain the fallout from the spread of the virus, which has affected more than 400 members of the crew of the USS Teddy Roosevelt, currently docked in Guam. Military officials continue to insist the ship is capable of deploying if needed, even though more than half of its crew has disembarked on the island to enter quarantines.