Covid hits U.S. Navy warship in Mideast; possible cases on 2nd ship

Feb. 26, 2021, 1:41 AM PST
By Phil Helsel
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The Navy’s 5th fleet said about a dozen cases had been confirmed aboard the USS San Diego in Bahrain.

Around a dozen service members on a U.S. Navy ship in Bahrain have tested positive for Covid-19, officials said, and another U.S. warship with several possible cases is expected to go to port for further testing.

Approximately 12 service members have tested positive aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock which is in Bahrain, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement late Thursday.

All those who tested positive have been isolated on board “and the ship remains in a restricted COVID bubble,” according to the statement.

There are also several “persons under investigation” aboard the guided missile cruiser the USS Philippine Sea, the Navy said.

Once the ship gets into port there will be testing of everyone who may have been exposed, it added.

The Navy would not disclose the location of the port in advance, citing security reasons, but the Middle East and the North Africa area is known as the 5th Fleet’s area of operations.

The USS Philippine Sea on Jan. 30 stopped a dhow — a type of sailing vessel commonly used in the region — with around 600 pounds of suspected heroin on board in the North Arabian Sea, officials said earlier this month.

The 5th Fleet tweeted that as soon as it became aware of possible Covid-19 aboard the USS San Diego and USS Philippine Sea “we took immediate actions to identify, isolate, test & treat affected Sailors & Marines aboard the two ships.”

The San Diego sails with nearly 600 sailors and Marines aboard, while the Philippine Sea carries some 380 sailors.

Last year, more than 1,000 sailors were infected with Covid-19 on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. One sailor died and the aircraft carrier was sidelined in Guam for weeks.

At the time of the outbreak the ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, raised the alarm in a strongly worded letter to Navy leadership.

Crozier was relieved of his command after the letter was leaked to the media. Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly later ridiculed Crozier to the crew, apologized for the remarks and resigned.

A Defense Department inspector general report released earlier this month said that commanders of the Roosevelt failed to enforce social distancing and withdrew sailors too early from quarantine last year, which aggravated the outbreak.

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