WASHINGTON – With the world’s eyes on the embattled carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. Navy is taking strong measures to make sure it can surge healthy aircraft carriers if needed.
The carrier Harry S Truman, at the tail end of a seven-month deployment, is being held offshore indefinitely as the Navy aims to keep its surge carrier deployment ready amid a global pandemic.
The Navy has already quarantined the crews of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group ahead of its upcoming deployment to ensure that its ready to make its Pacific deployment, vital since the forward-deployed carrier Ronald Reagan is in maintenance and the Theodore Roosevelt is marooned in Guam until it can get its COVID-19 outbreak under control.
The measures, combined with recent force-wide guidance documents to standardize mitigation procedures across the fleet, show the Navy getting its arms around a problem that bedeviled the military for weeks.
In the Truman strike group, which has already deployed twice without a significant maintenance period, the service is forbidding all traffic to and from the ships.
“We simply don’t allow people to come out, keeping our strike group COVID-free is the number one objective,” said Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, the carrier strike group commander. “And so while it might be nice to have some fresh people come out, right now it’s a better risk mitigation strategy” to keep people ashore.
U.S. 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis told reporters in a Monday phone call that some technical representatives may need to be brought out to the ship, but they would be subjected to a 14-day quarantine prior to departing.
In the Pacific, the news has gone from bad to worse for the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt with more than 1 in 10 sailors testing positive for COVID-19. On Monday, news broke that a sailor found unresponsive in a quarantine room last week died in intensive care.
The initial estimate from former Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly was that the ship would be in port for 25 days, which is would be next Monday, though that departure date appears unlikely.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.