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'Choppy waters' await Navy as virus strikes aircraft carrier

SeattlePI.com Saturday, 28 March 2020
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy, the military service hit hardest by the coronavirus, scrambled to contain its first at-sea outbreak, with at least two dozen infected aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of 11 active aircraft carriers whose mission is central to the Pentagon's strategy for deterring war with China and Iran.

The Roosevelt and its contingent of warplanes may be sidelined for days, sitting pier side in Guam as the entire crew — more than 5,000 — is tested. Navy leaders say the carrier could return to duty at any time if required, but the sudden setback is seen as a harbinger of more trouble to come.

“The Navy is headed into choppy waters in terms of readiness in the months ahead,” says retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former ship commander who rose to become NATO's top commander in Europe.

In Asia, a carrier presence is central to what the Pentagon has identified as a fundamental shift from fighting insurgent and extremist conflicts in the Middle East to a return to “great power competition." That means, principally, a bigger focus on China, including its militarization of disputed areas of the South China Sea.

The carrier, like other Navy ships, is vulnerable to infectious disease spread given its close quarters. The massive ship is more than 1,000 feet long; sailors are spread out across a labyrinth of decks linked by steep ladder-like stairs and narrow corridors. Enlisted sailors and officers have separate living quarters, but they routinely grab their food from crowded buffet lines and eat at tables joined end-to-end.

Stavridis fears that berthing compartments, or sleeping quarters where a dozen sailors are often packed into spaces not much larger than an average kitchen, will become “birthing compartments” for the virus.

Although the Navy is much smaller than the Army, it accounts for...
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Video Credit: Wochit News - Published
News video: U.S. Navy To Test All Personnel On Aircraft Carrier As Coronavirus Cases Increase

U.S. Navy To Test All Personnel On Aircraft Carrier As Coronavirus Cases Increase 00:32

5,000 US Navy personnel aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt will be tested for the coronavirus. According to Reuters, eight sailors have tested positive for the new coronavirus, up from three on Tuesday. However, officials speaking on condition of anonymity, said the number of infected...

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