US Navy evacuates coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier Roosevelt

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is seen while entering into the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/File

WASHINGTON: The US Navy is evacuating thousands of sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus on the ship, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Wednesday.

Xinhua news agency reported that Modly, briefing reporters by telephone from the Pentagon, said nearly 1,000 personnel have already left the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is now docking in Guam. "In the next couple of days, we expect to have about 2,700 of them off the ship."

According to Modly, there have been 93 positive tests on board the Roosevelt so far, with 86 of those service members exhibiting symptoms and seven having no symptoms. So far, 593 have tested negative. Nearly 1,300 crew members have been tested, and some results are still pending.

"We identified and quarantined all those who were suspected of being in close contact with those that had tested positive," Modly said, adding all sailors with confirmed positive tests were removed from the ship and isolated immediately.

News of a coronavirus outbreak on board the Roosevelt first emerged on March 24. The captain reportedly told the Pentagon earlier this week about the spread of the disease on the ship, calling for immediate assistance in quarantining the crew.

"We are providing the commanding officer what he has requested, and we are doing our best to accelerate the pace wherever we can," the acting secretary said.

"We cannot and will not remove all sailors from the ship," Modly said, adding that neither the ship's commander nor its medical officers had requested a total evacuation.

He said the aircraft carrier is comparable to a cruise ship only in the sense that "it's big and it floats and has a lot of people on it."

"This ship has weapons on it. It has munitions on it. It has expensive aircraft, and it has a nuclear power plant," Modly said. "It requires a certain number of people on that ship to maintain safety and security."