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USS Theodore Roosevelt now has 416 coronavirus cases in wake of captain's firing

Sailors cheer for ousted aircraft carrier captain

The U.S. Navy confirmed Thursday that 416 crew members onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier docked in Guam, have now tested positive for the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases jumped by 130 people in one day with more than 1,000 tests still pending.

On Wednesday, the Navy released a statement that said 93% of the crew had been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, resulting in 2,588 negative and 286 positive results. Over 2,000 sailors on the ship were subsequently moved to a base on the island, which is a U.S. territory.

"As testing continues, the ship will keep enough Sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port. There have been zero hospitalizations," the Navy said Wednesday. The next day, one sailor was transferred to a hospital and put under intensive care, according to the Navy.

Pentagon officials warned Thursday that the ship's outbreak will not be an isolated incident for the Navy, The Associated Press reports. "It's not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one-of-a-kind issue," said General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We have too many ships at sea. ... To think that it will never happen again is not a good way to plan."

The USS Roosevelt still has 1,164 pending coronavirus tests, according to Hyten.

At the same briefing, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told reporters the Defense Department understands that the coronavirus could be a long-term problem in the military,  and said that some ships may have to quarantine before they deploy. 

"We're going to need to change and adapt because even over the coming months, the virus isn't going to go away," Norquist said. "We're going to have to be able to operate in a COVID environment."

The situation on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt first gained attention after its captain, Brett Crozier, went outside his chain of command and sent a memo to more than 20 people pleading for help, and describing the carrier's dire conditions — when only dozens of sailors had tested positive. That memo quickly made its way to The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported the story on March 31. 

In his memo, Crozier suggested that most of the 4,000 crew members on board should be removed from the ship and put into 14-day individual quarantines, in keeping with the CDC's recommended guidelines for preventing infection. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," he wrote. "If we do not act now, we are failing to take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors."

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Crozier was later relieved of his command by the Navy. Acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, said he fired Crozier after losing confidence in his ability to lead under the stress of dealing with the viral outbreak. Modly went on to harshly criticize Crozier in front of his crew.

In an address obtained by The Chronicle and the website Task & Purpose, Modly can be heard telling sailors that Crozier was either "too naive or too stupid" to lead the ship if he thought an alarming memo he circulated wouldn't become public.

However, Modly submitted his resignation on Tuesday, one day after the recording of him disparaging the ousted captain became public.

Crozier's crew cheered him as he left the ship after being fired.

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