BREMERTON — The Navy has disputed claims there are sailors sickened with COVID-19 aboard the USS Nimitz, as the aircraft carrier continues preparations in Bremerton for deployment in the Pacific.
A sailor displayed symptoms and was placed in isolation away from the ship “out of an abundance of caution,” but testing for the virus proved inconclusive, Cmdr. John Fage, a spokesman for the U.S. 3rd fleet, told the Kitsap Sun.
“Sailors that had been in close contact with the individual were also removed from the ship as a precaution and placed into quarantine,” Fage said. “That sailor remains off the ship.”
A second sailor stationed aboard the Nimitz has tested positive for COVID-19, Fage added, but they were out of state and on leave at the time.
“That sailor remains in that location and has not been to or aboard Nimitz since departing the area on leave,” he said.
The Navy’s statements are at odds with reporting from Politico and others that confirmed a positive case on the ship, citing anonymous sources.
Nimitz to the rescue?
The Navy appears eager to send a carrier, one of 11 in a fleet of the world’s biggest warships, into the Pacific to relieve the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam, which has 173 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 sailors moved off the ship. The Roosevelt’s former captain, Capt. Brett Crozier, was fired after requesting help as cases spread on board. The New York Times has reported Crozier has since contracted the virus.
The Navy has declined to publicly state when Nimitz could depart Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. The ship has prepared for an onboard quarantine to minimize exposure, has put in place daily medical screenings, added requirements for cleaning the ship and is “minimizing group gatherings to the maximum extent possible,” Fage said previously.
The 1,100-foot-long flattop has been training at sea since the completion of an overhaul in 2018 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Earlier this year, the crew, whose age averages 24, conducted flight operations and other preparations to get ready to be at sea. Aircraft carrier deployments can last more than half a year; the USS Abraham Lincoln completed 295 days at sea during an around-the-world deployment that concluded in January.
The USS Carl Vinson has recently left dry dock at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard following renovations as part of a continuing $367 million overhaul. As the pandemic has spread, both the shipyard and the Vinson reported their first positive cases before the Pentagon banned individual military commands from reporting them.