Stung by seeing one of its Pacific fleet aircraft carriers stuck in Guam with almost 600 coronavirus cases, the US Navy said an Atlantic fleet carrier will extend its time at sea to keep it virus free.
The USS Harry S Truman will delay its homecoming to its Norfolk, Virginia, homeport, after a deployment to the Middle East, Navy officials said.
The carrier, which left on its current deployment in November, will complete what the Navy calls the “sustainment” phase of its operation at sea, the officials said. Sustainment, during which the ship can quickly get underway to respond to any emergency, is normally conducted pierside, so sailors can get some time ashore with families and friends.
“The Navy is taking this measure to maintain the strike group’s warfighting capability while ensuring the safety of the crew,” the Navy statement said.
“In the face of COVID-19, we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the US 2nd Fleet, said in the statement.
In a Facebook posting, Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, commander of the Truman’s carrier strike group, told families of the crew that he would update them on the status of the deployment in three weeks.
Loiselle said he was certain there were no coronavirus cases among the approximately 5,000 sailors on the Truman or the crews of its escort ships.
“It has been over 40 days since our last port call, and no one has been allowed to come aboard our ships since then, so we are sure we are COVID-free,” Loiselle said.
Meanwhile in Guam, the Navy reported the first death among the nearly 600 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt who tested positive for the coronavirus.