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Coronavirus cases on USS Theodore Roosevelt continue to climb after captain's ouster

Esper on fallout from Navy captain's firing
Esper on fallout from Navy captain's firing 06:44

The U.S. Navy on Friday confirmed 31 new cases of the coronavirus onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt docked in Guam, bringing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier's positive cases to 447. The ship's outbreak first gained attention after it was exposed by its captain, who was later fired. 

"As of today, 92% of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crewmembers have been tested for COVID-19, with 447 positive and 3,284 negative results," the Navy said in a statement Friday. 

On Thursday, the Navy said 93% of the Roosevelt's crew members had been tested for the virus. The Navy revised that tally to 92% on Friday, saying that their previous tally included both surveillance and diagnostic tests. 

"The percentage of crewmembers tested has been updated to accurately reflect the number of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 with diagnostic testing," reads the Navy's statement. "Previous data included surveillance testing results in addition to diagnostic testing results. Additionally, some Sailors were tested more than once during the testing period."

According to the Navy, 3,155 of the ship's over 4,000 sailors have now been moved ashore in response to the spread.

In new COVID-19 guidance issued on Friday, the Navy said "individuals identified as having confirmed or probable COVID-19 will be placed under isolation and evacuated off the ship as soon as practical if developing more severe symptoms." The Navy added that "the majority of COVID-19 patients will have mild symptoms and can remain on ship and be monitored until meeting return to work criteria."

In March, when only dozens of people onboard the ship had tested positive for the virus, its captain, Brett Crozier sent a memo to more than 20 people pleading for help. That memo quickly made its way to The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported the story on March 31.  

Sailors cheer for ousted aircraft carrier cap... 01:19

In his memo, Crozier urged that about 90% of the ship's sailors be moved off the ship, and into quarantine. While he noted the significance of his request, Crozier said that "decisive action is required."

Crozier was later relieved of his command by the Navy. Then-acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said the captain went outside the chain of command by not bringing his concerns to his direct superior. Days later, Modly resigned after a recording of him harshly criticizing Crozier became public. 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on "CBS This Morning" Friday that a reinstatement of Crozier is not off the table, and said no decision will be made until after an investigation is complete.   

"When I replaced the acting Navy secretary three days ago, I called him and the chief of naval operations into my office. I gave them some guidance. One of the things I told them is this: No further action will be taken against Captain Crozier until the investigation is completed, and once that's completed, we'll see where that takes us," Esper said. 

"So we've taken nothing off the table. What I look to do is hear from the chain of command. My inclination is always to support the chain of command and to take their recommendation seriously. We'll see how that plays out. At some point here in the coming days, they will come to me and share with me their findings and their recommendations," he said. 

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