A sailor assigned to the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has died of COVID-related complications on April 13, the U.S. Navy announced in a statement on Monday. The sailor is the first active duty fatality from COVID-19 in the U.S. armed forces.
The sailor, whose name and other identifying information were not publicly released pending notification of relatives, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam on April 9.
The sailor tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30 and was removed from the carrier and placed in an isolation house on Naval Base Guam along with four other USS Theodore Roosevelt crew members.
According to the service, he received medical checks twice daily from Navy medical teams.
“At approximately 8:30 a.m., April 9 (local date), the Sailor was found unresponsive during a daily medical check,” the Navy said in a statement. “While Naval Base Guam emergency responders were notified, CPR was administered by fellow Sailors and onsite medical team in the house. The Sailor was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam where the Sailor was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The Sailor was declared deceased April 13.”
More than 580 sailors have been confirmed infected to date as the Theodore Roosevelt has been docked in the U.S. territory of Guam since March 26. The outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt began in late March. According to reporting by the New York Times, the virus aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was first detected among crew members in the ship’s reactor department.
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Brett E. Crozier, distributed a letter last month urging senior U.S. Pacific Fleet leadership to take faster actions to protect the ship’s sailors. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors,” he wrote in the March 20 letter that was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly sacked Crozier and then spoke ill of him for writing the letter during a speech on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam this month.
“It was my opinion that if he didn’t think that information was going to get out into the public in this information age that we live in, then he was a) too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly said to the sailors, according to an audio recording obtained by NPR. “The alternate is that he did it on purpose, and that’s a serious violation of the uniform code of military justice, which you are all familiar with.”
Modly resigned last Tuesday after facing criticism and after publicly apologizing for his comments about Crozier. “Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite,” he said in a public statement.
More than 2,000 members of the U.S. armed forces have so far tested positive for COVID-19.