The development was first confirmed to the Navy Times by Cmdr Jennifer Cragg, a spokesperson for the Naval Air Force Atlantic, who indicated that the Virginia-based sailors are in isolation at their homes and are receiving “daily medical supportive care until they recover.”
Cragg declined to specify the number of service members who were affected by the recent COVID-19 infections aboard the vessel or exactly when the cases were detected. Citing a March policy by the US Department of Defense, the spokesperson explained that the release of such information would risk operational security.
“A small number of Sailors have been diagnosed with COVID this summer,” Cragg said in an email to Navy Times. “USS George H.W. Bush is not in a deployment status, and similar to other commands in the US Navy with a small number of cases, there has been no impact to readiness.”
“USS George H.W. Bush is actively enforcing physical distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing (personal protective equipment), and cleaning extensively,” Cragg added, noting that the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where the carrier is in the middle of a 28-month stay for maintenance, has also enforced preventative measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Maritime-Executive, the Old Dominion State’s Norfolk region has been experiencing an uptick in reported COVID-19 infections, with Thursday, the same day that Cragg confirmed the carrier’s outbreak, seeing 143 new cases. Overall, the region has reported more than 3,000 cases.
The Times reported the USS Bush is “at least” the second aircraft carrier hit with COVID-19 since the pandemic first began making headline news; however, the amount of cases reported aboard the carrier comes nowhere near the caseloads recorded on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which saw upwards of 1,000 sailors infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Earlier this year, the USS Roosevelt captured the attention of many after US Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, its commanding officer at the time, wrote a widely shared letter to senior naval staff that called for “all available resources” to be sent to help the vessel’s personnel in isolating sailors who contracted COVID-19.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset - our sailors,” Crozier wrote. The strongly-worded letter to officials ultimately sparked nationwide outrage after it was leaked to the press and saw Crozier removed as the carrier’s captain. Additionally, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned from his post following criticism over his handling of the matter.
According to the Navy’s latest figures, the service has recorded over 9,000 COVID-19 cases among sailors, civilians, dependents and contractors. Four contractors, 13 civilians and one sailor, who was assigned to the USS Roosevelt, have died after contracting COVID-19.