Coronavirus outbreak strikes another U.S. Navy ship

Another COVID-19 outbreak at sea has forced a U.S. Navy destroyer to return to port.

Eighteen sailors from the Kidd, a destroyer underway in the eastern Pacific Ocean, have tested positive, the Navy announced Friday. The ship, which has a crew of about 350, is returning to port, according to Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Megan Isaac, who said operational security prevented her from identifying the destroyer’s destination. Its home port is Everett, Wash.

The Kidd is the second Navy ship to be sidelined by COVID-19, following the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which was forced to extend a previously scheduled port call in Guam because of an outbreak that ultimately infected more than 800 sailors.

The destroyer left its last port of call, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on March 20, according to Isaac. The more than one-month gap between its departure from Pearl Harbor and the first COVID-19 diagnosis suggests that one or more sailors were infected while in Hawaii, but asymptomatic. The ship had previously visited Guam in mid-February, according to a Navy news release.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd. (Reuters/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Crishanda K. McCall)
The destroyer USS Kidd. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Crishanda K. McCall/U.S. Navy/Reuters)

The Kidd was conducting independent counter-narcotic operations when the drama began Thursday, according to Isaac. After a sailor aboard the ship began displaying symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, he was medically evacuated to San Antonio, where he tested positive, Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday.

Based on lessons learned from its Theodore Roosevelt experience, within 24 hours the Navy sent an eight-person “specialized medical evaluation team” to the ship, where the team began testing the rest of the crew and doing contact tracing, according to Hoffman.

By Friday morning, 17 more sailors had tested positive, according to the Navy. “Testing continues, and we expect additional cases,” a Navy statement said. “All measures are being taken to evaluate the extent of the COVID-19 transmission on the ship.”

The ship is preparing to “quickly” return to port, “where [the team] will undertake efforts to clean the ship, they will remove a portion of the crew from the ship and work to get everybody back to health and get the ship back to sea,” Hoffman said. After the ship has been cleaned and disinfected in accordance with guidance from the Navy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “onboard test results will inform operational decisions,” the Navy statement said.

The sailor who was medically evacuated Thursday “is already improving and will self-isolate,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. Fourth Fleet, in the Navy statement. “We are taking every precaution to ensure we identify, isolate, and prevent any further spread onboard the ship.”


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