- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2020

The Navy is asking for volunteers from the USS Theodore Roosevelt to help them understand the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the aircraft carrier that has already cost the life of one of their shipmates and sent much of the crew into temporary quarantine.

Starting Monday, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center based in Portsmouth, Va. will be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a public health outbreak investigation on the ship.

“This is similar to outbreak investigations the CDC and public health professionals do around the world whenever there is an infectious disease outbreak,” Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, the U.S. Navy Surgeon General, told reporters Friday at the Pentagon.

Volunteer sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt will be asked to complete a short survey and provide additional specimens for laboratory testing. The inquiry will help medical professionals make better public health decisions about the coronavirus pandemic for the ship and the Navy, officials said.

The blood and nasal swab samples will be sent to the CDC labs in Atlanta for analysis. The nasal swab will determine if the sailor has been infected with COVID-19.

“The blood sample will undergo a new test that identifies COVID-19 antibodies in the blood — a serology test. The results tell us if people have been exposed to the coronavirus and subsequently developed antibodies,” Rear Adm. Gillingham said.

Navy officials still don’t know exactly how the coronavirus got aboard the aircraft carrier. Some have blamed a port visit to Da Nang, Vietnam while others say it might have come from one of the routine supply flights, known as COD or Carrier Onboard Delivery.

“We believe it probably passed through the ship quite freely and was initially unrecognized,” Rear Adm. Gillingham said.

A Navy official has confirmed that the first two sailors who tested positive for the coronavirus were assigned to the ship’s air wing.

The investigation will both provide answers to COVID-19, including strengthening their understanding of its risks to the sailors and help develop future testing strategies and mitigation measures, officials said.

“Findings from this outbreak investigation will help our Navy plan for avoiding or minimizing future outbreaks,” Rear Adm. Gillingham said.

More than 90 percent of the crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been tested for COVID-19 with 660 sailors testing positive and 3,920 testing negative. Navy officials said seven sailors have been hospitalized on Guam and one remains in intensive care because of shortness of breath.

On Thursday, the Navy identified Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, Jr., 41, as the sailor aboard the carrier who died from COVID-19.

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