WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy sailor died on Monday after contracting the coronavirus, marking the first death of a sailor assigned to the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.
FILE PHOTO: The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo
Late last month the captain of the aircraft carrier, in a blunt letter, called on Navy leadership for stronger measures to save the lives of his sailors and stop the spread of the coronavirus aboard the huge ship.
“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,” Captain Brett Crozier wrote.
So far, about 585 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered carrier have tested positive for the coronavirus. About 4,000 sailors have been moved from the carrier to facilities in Guam, where the ship has been docked after the number of cases started increasing.
That letter by Crozier, which was obtained by a number of news outlets, set in motion a series of events that led to Crozier’s firing and the resignation last week of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.
Modly’s resignation followed mounting backlash for his firing and ridiculing Crozier.
The Navy this week is expected to release the results of an investigation into the events surrounding the letter and officials have not ruled out reinstating Crozier, who is seen as a hero by the ship’s crew, as captain of the carrier.
The sailor, who had been admitted to an intensive care unit in Guam last week, died from coronavirus-related complications, the Navy said in a statement.
This marks the first death of a sailor in the Navy, which so far has had almost 900 sailors test positive for the virus. The sailor is also the first active-duty U.S. service member to die from the virus.
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that four additional sailors from the carrier had been taken to the hospital to be monitored. The officials said the sailors were in stable condition.
Modly’s resignation highlighted the U.S. military’s struggle to meet increasingly competing priorities: maintaining readiness for conflict and safeguarding service members as the virus spreads globally.
The episode deepened upheaval in Navy leadership. The Navy’s last secretary was fired in November over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct. The Navy SEAL had won the support of President Donald Trump.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky