• By Mar-Vic Cagurangan and Johanna Salinas

41% of Roosevelt crew tested; 137 confirmed Covid-19 positive

Adm. John Menoni, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, speak at the video conference in Adelup on Friday. Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor.

At least 41 percent of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have been tested for Covid-19, with 137 positive cases so far, according to the Navy’s latest update.

The Navy said 400 more sailors who tested negative were scheduled to move into Guam hotels for quarantine on Friday, bringing the total to 576 with zero hospitalizations.

“As testing continues, the ship will keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port,” the Navy said.

Despite the Covid-19 crisis besetting Roosevelt, Adm. John Menoni, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, said the ship will be ready to respond to any emergency. “Roosevelt is not incapacitated,” he said.

Roosevelt is a Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

“That ship could go set sail tomorrow to perform security measures if required to. I’m in contact with, not only the Strike Group’s commander, but also the fleet commander and I’m assured that the ship can get on the way if it is required to,” Menoni said.

Amid the global attention to the pandemic, North Korea has launched a series of short-range missiles in March, marking its first missile tests in 2020.

“With regard to North Korea, nothing has changed from before Covid-19 to today,” Menoni said. “The military is still out to watch the world and is ready to defend not only the U.S. but Guam and CNMI anytime there are any issues that we see around the world.”

In the meantime, Menoni said, the Roosevelt sailors who have been brought ashore have a mission to rest, stay healthy and get healthy.

He reassured the Guam community that any sailors who were to test positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine in Tumon will be sent back to the Navy base, where they will be in isolation.

“Regardless of whether it’s a positive test during their daily checks if anybody shows any influenza-like symptoms or any health degradation while in quarantine, we’ll follow the same protocol the government of Guam is doing with their quarantines in the hotels,” Menoni said at Friday’s video conference “That individual will be pulled out of the hotel in PPE and be transported to Naval hospital where they will get evaluated. They’ll get a COVID-19 test in some manner.”

Responding to concerns about transporting the sailors from the ship to Tumon hotels, Menoni said, “With a logistics operation, there’s always some small friction points.”

However, he said, “There were no showstoppers. There were no issues of contact that we were all worried about.”

He said the Navy has “the proper people in place to make sure the quarantine is enforced.”

Menoni said military officials will be present throughout the lodging to ensure sailors are following quarantine protocols. Medical representatives are also deployed to perform daily health evaluations for the sailors.

“This is not liberty for them,” Menoni said. “The sailors who tested negative have a mission is to rest and stay healthy. As for the sailors, who were diagnosed Covid-19 positive, their mission is to get healthy.”

He said initial reports he has received so far indicated that “all sailors are complying and the deliveries of health services and food services went very well.”

At the Guam Legislature, Sabina Perez said she was troubled by the Navy’s decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier of duty as commanding officer of Roosevelt after disclosing the situation on the ship.

Perez said the Navy’s disciplinary action against Crozier “has demonstrated that the proper and normal response to this pandemic will challenge institutional norms.”

“To survive this pandemic, we must change our ways in order to adapt. As such, leaders must make tough decisions and must place safety concerns above all else. This includes evacuating the USS Roosevelt immediately, as well as increasing measures to protect public health,” Perez said.

A video posted by a sailor on Facebook shows hundreds of Navy officers gathered on board Roosevelt's hangar deck to cheer for Crozier, hours after he was dismissed.

Crozier was relieved of duty on Thursday for breaking the chain of command and allowing the leak of his memo, in which he begged for the Navy’s “decisive action” to evacuate the soldiers.

Perez urged the military to maximize on-base containment of all exposed sailors from aboard Roosevelt.

“Currently, multiple facilities are vacant or underutilized within the base. The military has the capability to quickly and effectively establish safe, comfortable temporary housing units. Rear Admiral Menoni confirmed that not all military buildings were used prior to the transfer of sailors to various hotels,”Perez said.

“Although the transfer of sailors is limited to those testing negative for the coronavirus, military leadership is unable to provide assurances that those testing negative were not in contact or in close proximity with those who are positive.”

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