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More sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier currently in the western Pacific have tested positive for coronavirus and officials fear the number will continue to rise.
There are now 38 Navy sailors who have been infected with COVID-19, U.S. officials told Fox News on Sunday.
Early last week, there were only three known cases aboard the massive warship with a crew of 5,000. It marked the first U.S. naval vessel at sea to have infected people onboard.
At least 38 U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said.
Early Friday, the “Big Stick” — as the carrier is called — pulled into port in Guam days ahead of schedule in order to disinfect the ship, transport infected sailors to a local hospital and order more bulk testing of the crew.
The Navy’s top officer said the stop in Guam was “previously scheduled” for maintenance.
“We expect additional positive tests,” Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said in a statement Thursday. Gilday says none of the sailors infected so far are “seriously ill.”
Like cruise ships, it’s nearly impossible to isolate sailors at sea or practice social distancing while launching F/A-18 Super Hornets from the flight deck or standing watch on the Nimitz-class carrier’s two nuclear reactors.
“There aren’t staterooms for all 5,000 sailors,” one Navy official quipped.
So far, no pilots on the ship have been infected, officials say.
The Teddy Roosevelt Strike Group had previously sailed through the South China Sea, launching jets round the clock to send a message to Beijing.
It’s not clear if the virus has spread to any of the destroyer escorts in the group since leaving San Diego in early January.
Deploying with the carrier is the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyers Russell, Paul Hamilton, Pinckney, Kidd and Rafael Peralta. Most of those warships, armed with hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles, will remain at sea while the carrier is moored in Guam — a stop that could be weeks long, officials say.
The strike group visited Vietnam earlier this month after assessing the risk to the crew to be low, according to Navy officials.
The Navy’s only other carrier in the western Pacific also has cases of the virus onboard, Fox News first reported Friday. The Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan is in port right now, and the two sailors who tested positive are no longer on board, according to officials.
The positive cases were discovered Friday and forced the naval base located an hour outside Tokyo to be locked down over the weekend, with thousands of American sailors ordered to remain on the ship for 48-hours.
The virus has also spread to an Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan, with at least three known positive cases reported.