WASHINGTON – A sailor aboard the COVID-19-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt died of the disease, the Navy announced Monday.
The sailor, whose name was not released, pending notification of family, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30 and was placed in isolation. He was found unresponsive in his room April 9 and moved to intensive care at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, where the aircraft carrier is docked. He is the first active-duty service member to die of the disease.
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As of Sunday, 585 members of the 4,800-member crew had tested positive for the coronavirus. The ship's commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, was fired after pleading for help, and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned under fire for dismissing Crozier.
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"The entire department is deeply saddened by the loss of our first active duty member to COVID-19," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the family of the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who lost his battle with the virus today. We remain committed to protecting our personnel and their families while continuing to assist in defeating this outbreak."
The sailor is the second service member to die of the disease, which had infected nearly 3,000 troops as of April 9, according to the Pentagon. Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, 57, a drilling Guardsman and physician assistant, died March 30 in a Pennsylvania hospital.
The Navy had tested 92% of the Roosevelt's crew as of Sunday and moved nearly 4,000 sailors to shore. Sailors remain aboard the ship to operate its nuclear reactors, guard its weapons and aircraft and sanitize the vessel.
"This is a great loss for the ship and for our Navy," Adm. Mike Gilday the chief of naval operations, said in a statement. "My deepest sympathy goes out the family, and we pledge our full support to the ship and crew as they continue their fight against the coronavirus. While our ships, submarines and aircraft are made of steel, sailors are the real strength of our Navy.”
The outbreak on the Roosevelt, which began with three sailors who tested positive, has rattled the Navy, from ill enlisted sailors to the very top of its command structure. Crozier's letter to more than 20 Navy officials pleading for help angered his superiors when it leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.
That led to the chain of events that reverberates today. Modly fired Crozier, who was popular with the crew. Modly then flew to Guam on a Navy Gulfstream jet, at the cost of $243,000, and delivered a 15-minute speech excoriating Crozier. Top Pentagon officials defended the expenditure.
Modly stood by his remarks after they drew heavy criticism in Washington, then backpedaled hours after President Donald Trump voiced sympathy for Crozier. A day later, Modly, who is quarantined after visiting the stricken ship, resigned.
The Navy continues to investigate its response to the outbreak and Crozier's response.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Sailor on USS Roosevelt, ship hit by virus, dies