The Navy is battling a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on a warship as 18 sailors aboard the destroyer USS Kidd have tested positive for the disease so far, the service announced on Friday.
One sailor was medically evacuated from the ship to a hospital in San Antonio, a Navy news release says. As of Friday morning, another 17 sailors on the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The first patient transported is already improving and will self-isolate,” Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4 Fleet, said in a statement. “We are taking every precaution to ensure we identify, isolate, and prevent any further spread onboard the ship. Our medical team continues coordinating with the ship and our focus is the safety and well-being of every sailor.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman on Friday said the Kidd is preparing to return to port, where a portion of the crew will be moved ashore while the ship is cleaned.
“As a result, the Navy has – using lessons learned from other cases – they have flown a specialized medical evaluation team onto the Kidd: I think it’s an eight-person team that is conducting testing on the ship,” Hoffman told reporters on Friday.
The medical team arrived within 24 hours of the first sailor showing symptoms of COVID-19, he said.
Hoffman was unable to say how the disease came aboard the ship or how long the Kidd would be in port, adding the Navy was expected to provide more information on the matter later on Friday.
“Keep your fingers crossed,” Hoffman said. “The Navy is doing everything they can and we’re going to hope for the best outcome but we’re going take all the prudent steps that we possibly can.”
This is the second major outbreak on a Navy warship at sea. The Navy has previously confirmed cases on at least two dozen other ships that are all in port.
The Kidd outbreak comes the day after the Navy finished testing 4,800 sailors assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt for the virus.
The aircraft carrier was deployed to the Pacific last month when it first reported cases of COVID-19 among its crew, and it eventually had to dock in Guam and quarantine its crew ashore to slow the spread of the virus.
Nearly 850 sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for the virus, and one sailor, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., died of it earlier this month.
The destroyer Kidd is part of the Trump administration's deployment of Navy warships and aircraft to the Caribbean to fight drug cartels, Reuters reported.
Announcing the deployment earlier this month, the Trump administration said the additional warships and aircraft were also aimed and preventing “corrupt actors” like Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to smuggle more narcotics.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported the USS Kidd was in the Caribbean, not the Pacific Ocean.