Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Richardson
Ships from the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group and from the America Expeditionary Strike Group transit the South China Sea in formation during a photo exercise March 15, 2020.
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“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.” Those are the cryptic words of Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, published by the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday. The words came in a letter from the captain of the mighty aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, sidelined with crew members sick from COVID-19. The letter comes as a now very public plea to the U.S. Navy to help sailors aboard one of America’s most important Nimitz-class ships.

Captain Pleads for Help Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

We reported Friday that the Theodore Roosevelt headed to port in Guam, an outbreak of COVID-19 infecting at least 19 sailors at that time. The number of infected reportedly now numbers more than 100, surely drastically affecting the ability of the ship to perform its duties. But even more immediate, Capt. Crozier pleads for the welfare of his sailors.

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote, according to sfchronicle.com. “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.”

The four-page letter details the situation aboard the Theodore Roosevelt. Too few sailors have been removed from the ship. Meanwhile, the majority of the crew remains, packed into tight ship quarters that make social distancing requirements impossible.

Tight Confines Contribute to COVID-19 Spread

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote, reported sfchronicle.com. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

But the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet downplayed the critical nature described by Crozier. “What I will tell you is I have no sailors hospitalized, I have no sailors on ventilators, I have no sailors in critical condition no sailors in an ICU status on the Theodore Roosevelt,” Adm. John Aquilino told cnn.com.

But while Pentagon and senior Navy officials say they are working on solutions, Crozier demands immediate action. He calls for extraordinary measures to address what has become a major problem.

“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

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