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The Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is expected to return to sea this week, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing U.S. officials.
In an interview Monday, the carrier's commanding officer, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, expressed confidence that the ship could get back to its mission. "Do I have a crystal ball? I do not. But I think we have set the conditions for a high probability of success, and we're going to go to sea and do our mission," he told the AP.
The carrier's captain said that when the ship finally sets sail, it would do so with about two-thirds of the crew, about 3,000 sailors. The rest of the crew, about 1,800 sailors, will remain on Guam, where the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been sidelined since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak began nearly two months ago.
Sailors aboard the carrier have been conducting a "fast cruise," which simulates being at sea, the Navy reported Monday, explaining that the "following a successful fast cruise, the ship will commence underway training and carrier qualifications to support the air wing's return to operational readiness."
Efforts to get the USS Theodore Roosevelt back to sea are ongoing even as some sailors who were believed to have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, tested positive after testing negative twice and being cleared to return to the ship.
Pacific Fleet said in a statement last Thursday that five sailors had to be removed from the ship after retesting positive. By Monday, that number had risen to 14.
The coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt began in late March, upending the carrier's Pacific deployment and forcing it into port in Guam.
Since then, the ship has seen more than one thousand cases, several hospitalizations, and one death.
Most of the carrier's crew of roughly 4,800 sailors had to be evacuated ashore in response to the outbreak, but in recent weeks, sailors have begun returning to the ship, but only on the condition that they meet the health requirements. As of Thursday, 2,900 sailors had returned to the carrier.
After completing carrier qualifications after returning to sea, the ship is expected to return to Guam to pick up sailors deemed fit for duty.
If everything goes according to plan, U.S. officials told the AP, the ship will be able to go back to conducting naval operations in the Pacific before returning to San Diego.
While the Navy is eager to see the USS Theodore Roosevelt again set sail, the service has repeatedly said that the return to sea will happen only if the conditions aboard the carrier make it possible to do so safely.
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