The USS Kidd, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, has been recalled to port from operations off the coast of South America due to a coronavirus outbreak onboard and is expected to return to San Diego in the coming days.
Last week about a dozen crew were reported to test positive for COVID-19, with numbers rapidly rising to more than 30. On Monday, the U.S. Navy announced that the ship had 47 infected sailors with about half the crew left to be tested. Two sailors were already evacuated to medical facilities in the United States. The Navy was concerned enough to dispatch the amphibious assault ship Makin Island last week to meet the Kidd so it could take more seriously ill sailors aboard if necessary. The Makin Island, designed to carry and support more than 1,500 marines, has a large medical staff and suite. Fifteen Kidd sailors have been transferred onboard.
The Kidd was one of several U.S. warships conducting counter-narcotic operations announced by President Trump at the beginning of April following indictments against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.
According to USNI News, 26 U.S. Navy ships have reported coronavirus cases onboard, including four Pacific-based aircraft carriers. Only the Kidd and the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt have had to interrupt operations due to outbreaks.
The Theodore Roosevelt and its crew have been in isolation in Guam since March 26. With testing completed, Theodore Roosevelt currently has 955 active cases of COVID-19, approximately a fourth of the crew. It is expected to remain isolated and it is unclear when it will be able to return to its deployment missions.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is undergoing repairs in its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. With the Theodore Roosevelt isolated in Guam there are no U.S. aircraft carriers conducting operations in the Western Pacific. The USS America, a large amphibious assault ship capable of carrying F-35B fighter jets, is now the largest warship operating in the region and recently conducted operations in the South China Sea, where Chinese and Malaysian ships have been in a standoff new Chinese incursions to waters Malaysia claims economic rights over. The America can carry 13 F-35s. The Theodore Roosevelt can carry more than 90 jets and helicopters.
The U.S. Navy has instituted a range of new rules and pre-sail isolation practices for crews to try and stem the spread of the virus aboard its ships. On the Kidd, sailors are wearing gloves and N95 masks to prevent further spread of the virus. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gilday told the fleet in a message that his top priority was Navy personnel’s health and safety, followed by maintaining fleet operations. More than 1,600 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 and one has died, a member of the Theodore Roosevelt’s crew in Guam.