Just a day after beginning laboratory batch testing onboard three US Navy vessels, the first cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus have been found among sailors in the Pacific Fleet.
Three sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have been quarantined and are being flown off the warship after they tested positive for the virus, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told reporters Tuesday.
The Roosevelt has about 5,000 personnel onboard and is based in San Diego, California. The ship is presently in the Philippine Sea after having recently called to port in Da Nang, Vietnam, for five days earlier this month.
While these are the first cases of COVID-19 found on US Navy ships at sea, they are not the service’s first. Several sailors assigned to warships also based in San Diego, such as the USS Coronado and USS Boxer, as well as Navy sailors and Marines at several area bases, have also tested positive for the highly infectious respiratory disease.
However, the Navy has gone back and forth on its policy towards these cases’ specifics. Just four days ago, a Pacific Fleet public affairs officer handed the San Diego Union-Tribune a statement saying it was fleet policy “to only release the number of positive cases and the geographic location of those sailors” in response to an inquiry about two newly identified cases.
Discovery of the positive tests onboard the Roosevelt comes just days after the Navy dispatched several medical teams to three Pacific Fleet ships, including the Roosevelt but also the USS America and USS Blue Ridge.
The Navy Times noted that the Navy Forward-Deployed Preventive Medicine Units would be able to test groups of sailors who show symptoms of influenza, which COVID-19 somewhat resembles early in the infection, and that the batch-testing would be much faster than individual tests.
Lt. Cmdr. Danett Bishop, leader and microbiologist for the preventative medicine team aboard the USS America, said in a Sunday news release that the teams carried with them “the most advanced laboratory capability that Navy Medicine has placed forward deployed.”
“We can make force health decisions in real time, enhancing the health of the crew while minimizing any potential outbreak of COVID-19.”