- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2020

Five sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have retested positive for COVID-19 despite having cleared “rigorous recovery criteria” established by federal health officials, Navy leaders said Friday.

Other sailors believed to have come in contact with the five crew members have been taken off the ship and placed in quarantine. It’s the latest setback for the Roosevelt, which has been the Navy’s coronavirus epicenter and has played a leading role in driving the service’s COVID-19 count far higher than all other branches of the military.

It’s unclear how the five sailors could have tested positive a second time. After the initial positive test, they followed “strict social distancing protocols” but still developed symptoms.

“These five sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and did the right thing reporting to medical for evaluation. The sailors were immediately removed from the ship and placed back in isolation, their close contacts were mapped, and they are receiving the required medical care,” Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Megan Isaac said in a statement. “A small number of other sailors who came in close contact with these individuals were also removed from the ship and tested. They will remain in quarantine pending retest results.”

As of Friday, the Navy has at least 2,205 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to Pentagon figures. The next highest branch is the Army, with 1,172 cases.

The Navy’s handling of the outbreak led directly to the ouster of former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and, more recently, sparked a Pentagon Inspector General investigation.

In a statement earlier this week, the Defense Department watchdog said it will investigate the Navy’s handling of the outbreak on the Roosevelt, the USS Kidd, and elsewhere across the service.

“The objective of this evaluation is to determine whether the Navy has implemented policies and procedures to prevent and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus-disease-2019 (COVID-19), on ships and submarines,” the inspector general said. “In addition, we will determine whether mitigation measures that are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 were implemented across the fleet.”

The Roosevelt’s former leader, Capt. Brett Crozier, was relieved of command after writing a letter to Navy leaders pleading for help and warning that the situation on his vessel was dire, and that sailors would likely die without a stronger response.

The ship was eventually forced to dock in Guam as the case count rose. After Capt. Crozier’s dismissal in early April, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned over his handling of the matter, which included a controversial visit to the Roosevelt during which he seemed to suggest Capt. Crozier was “stupid” for writing the letter.

Military officials are now conducting a thorough investigation of the ordeal. It’s possible Capt. Crozier ultimately could return to his former post aboard the Roosevelt.

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