U.S. Navy to test all sailors on aircraft carrier in Pacific as coronavirus cases rises

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All 5,000 personnel aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt will be tested for the coronavirus after the number of confirmed cases on the ship increased to about two dozen, U.S. Navy officials said on Thursday.

This is the latest example of the coronavirus' impact on the military and could test the Navy's ability to continue operations in the region at the same pace.

Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told a Pentagon news conference that, while the carrier in the Pacific Ocean was capable of carrying out military operations, it would be pulling into the U.S. island territory of Guam in the western Pacific.

"We are in the process now of testing 100 percent of the crew of that ship to ensure that we are able to contain whatever spread might have occurred there," Modly said.

In all, eight sailors have tested positive for the coronavirus, up from three on Tuesday, Modly said.

However Defense Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the number of infected sailors had increased to about two dozen and would likely further increase as more were tested for the highly contagious respiratory illness.

The nuclear-powered Theodore Roosevelt, a small city at sea, usually also includes naval aviators and Marines.

Modly said the carrier could do a small amount of the testing of samples taken from crew members, but that the Navy was looking into what other labs could process the tests for the virus.

Earlier this month, the carrier visited the central Vietnamese city of Danang. Vietnam has only about 150 known cases of the illness that has infected more than 500,000 people worldwide.

As of Thursday, 280 U.S. service members around the world had tested positive for the coronavirus, including 104 from the Navy.

"We are trending higher," Modly said, but added that it was too early to say why that was the case.

The Navy is doing its part to assist with the strain on overwhelmed hospitals during the U.S. epidemic. It was sending a 1,000-bed hospital ship to New York City and another one to Los Angeles to treat non-coronavirus patients.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

03/26/2020 19:23

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