(Update: Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero granted the Navy's request to designate a hotel as a quarantine site for sailors)
The number of sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who tested positive for Covid-19, has hit almost 200, according to the ship's commander who is making a desperate plea for his entire crew to be isolated.
In a four-page letter to the Department of Navy, the Captain Brett Crozier asked that 4,000 sailors be transferred to an off-ship quarantine site.
The fourth-class Nimitz carrier has 5,000 sailors, who are in quarantine aboard the ship, which Crozier said is conducive to virus transmission.
The ship has a large number of sailors, who are confined in a space, share restroom facilities, work stations and computers and eat meals provided by personnel exposed to the coronavirus.
"Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seen like an extra ordinary measure," Crozier wrote.
He said at least 10 percent of his crew will have to stay aboard to run the reactor, sanitize the ship, ensure security and provide for contingency response to emergencies.
"This is a necessary risk," Crozier said. "It will make the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our sailors. Keeping over 4,000 of our men and women aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt is an necessary risk and breaks faith with those sailors entrusted to our care."
"If required, the USS Theodore Roosevelt would embark all assigned sailors, set sail and be ready to fight and beat any adversary that dares challenge the U.S. or our allies," Crozier said. "The virus would certainly have an impact but in combat we are willing to take certain risks that are not acceptable in peacetime. However, we are not at war and therefore cannot allow a single sailor to perish a result of this pandemic unnecessarily."
The San Francisco Chronicle, which originally obtained a copy Crozier's letter, quoted Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly as saying, “I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities.”
After completing its port call in Vietnam, the carrier came back to Guam. The first four Covid-19 positive sailors were airlifted from the carrier last week and brought to the Naval Hospital Guam.
Fox News quoted Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly as saying the carrier will be sidelined in Guam for at least the next "couple of weeks."
"Obviously, it has huge implications for the Navy," Modly told Fox News. "That ship is not like a cruise ship. It has weapons on board. It has a lot of fuel on board. It has aircraft, expensive aircraft. You can't just take everybody off."
Guam Sen. Sabina Perez said she troubled by the US Navy’s plans to seek off-base accommodations for the sailors .
"A decision of this magnitude, which threatens the health and safety of us all, should not take place without the knowledge and consent of the people of Guam," Perez said in a letter to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
"Our medical facilities are strained, and we have yet to experience the peak of this outbreak, at which point the island will find itself in an even more compromising situation. I am saddened that we have lost a second victim to the coronavirus, and it is reckless to allow USS Roosevelt personnel to travel about the island at this time."
In a letter on March 27, Perez urged Rear Admiral John V. Menoni , commander of the Joint Region Marianas, to direct USS Roosevelt personnel to quarantine onboard the vessel when medically able and to mobilize the military resources through the Defense Logistics Agency and other means necessary, as is done for humanitarian aid or during wartime.