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Captain of US warship facing coronavirus outbreak pleads with Pentagon for help: ‘Sailors do not need to die’

Capt. Brett E. Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), shows Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and his wife, Polly Spencer, the bridge during a tour of the ship.

In a four-page letter to the Pentagon, the captain of a U.S. warship that is deployed in the Pacific Ocean and is presently docked in Guam pleaded for help over a coronavirus outbreak on board.


Dozens of sailors on board the USS Teddy Roosevelt — which has more than 4000 crew members — have been infected with COVID-19, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper of the New York Times are reporting. In his letter to the Pentagon, Capt. Brett E. Crozier wrote, “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 is recommending offloading the USS Teddy Roosevelt’s entire crew. But as Gibbons-Neff and Cooper note in the Times, “housing more than 4000 people while also isolating them” on Guam “would be extremely difficult.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, officials all over the world have been stressing the importance of social distancing. But as Crozier pointed out, conditions are quite cramped on a warship like the USS Teddy Roosevelt.

“None of the berthing aboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation,” Crozier told the Pentagon.

In a statement on March 29, a U.S. Navy official quoted by the Times warned of the dangerous situation the USS Teddy Roosevelt is facing. That official explained, “The ship’s commanding officer advocated for housing more members of the crew in facilities that allow for better isolation. Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer.”

The crisis on the USS Teddy Roosevelt is not the first time the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the U.S. military. In early March, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that the United States’ Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli had gone into self-quarantine after some participants in an international military conference in Germany had tested positive for coronavirus. The commanders who tested positive following that March 6 conference were Poland’s Gen. Jaroslaw Mika and Italy’s Gen. Salvatore Farina. Italy has been hit especially hard by the pandemic: on March 10 — when the Associated Press reported on Cavoli’s self-quarantine — the death toll from coronavirus had reached 631 in Italy. And by March 31, it had soared to more than 12,400 (according to researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore).

Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the crisis on the USS Teddy Roosevelt on March 30 and stressed that the warship can still perform its missions.

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