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Coronavirus US: USS George H.W. Bush sailors test positive

An unspecified number of sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have tested positive for COVID-19 while the ship has been undergoing maintenance work at a port in Virginia.

A Navy spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that a ‘small number’ of sailors had come down with the coronavirus, but declined to say how many specifically and when they had become infected.

‘A small number of sailors have been diagnosed with COVID this summer,’ Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, said in an email.

‘USS George H.W. Bush is not in a deployment status, and similar to other commands in the US Navy with a small number of cases, there has been no impact to readiness’ Cragg wrote, Navy Times reported. 

‘The infected sailors are at their private homes in quarantine and are receiving ‘daily medical supportive care until they have recovered,’ Cragg said.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is adhering to strict coronavirus precautions. 

‘USS George H.W. Bush is actively enforcing physical distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing (personal protective equipment), and cleaning extensively,’ Cragg said. 

‘Norfolk Naval Shipyard is conducting temperature checks and screening all personnel with a medical systems questionnaire, and if required, referring sailors with symptoms for medical evaluation.’ 

The USS George H.W. Bush, a 19-year-old Nimitz-class air craft carrier with a ship’s company of more than 3,500 and air wing with about 2,500 service members, has been undergoing maintenance work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard since February. 

The confirmed cases come after two other ships suffered COVID-19 outbreaks that impacted almost 1,300 sailors, including one Charles Robert Thacker Jr of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who died from the infection.

Thacker had served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which returned to its homeport of San Diego July 9 after six months at sea and having been hit with a massive outbreak that left more than 1,200 sailor infected.

The outbreak also led to the controversial termination of the ship’s commanding officer, Brett Crozier, after he urged his commanders to take faster action to stem the spread of the virus. 

Crozier was removed from his command when his letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly also resigned over the matter.

The Navy later opened an investigation, which found Crozier made serious errors in judgment that worsened the problem. 

Still, many in the Navy had regarded him a hero for the concerns he showed his crew. 

In a separate outbreak, more than 70 sailors came down with COVID-19 aboard the destroyer USS Kidd in April.

The first case reported on the warship April 22 was only discovered a month after it left its last port visit in Hawaii, raising questions about how long the virus can spread silently among a population before its presence is known. 

Within a week, more than 60 sailors had tested positive for the virus, after officials tested two-thirds of people on board.

One virologist said the virus may have gone unnoticed for weeks because infected people can spread it without showing any symptoms – and many people never develop the tell-tale signs of the infection.

They may have unknowingly transmitted the virus to others on the ship for weeks before someone finally became ill with the characteristic symptoms.

Or, it’s possible that in the days and weeks prior other sailors had signs of the virus but did not report them, either because they were mild or atypical.

The sailor who was first infected was tested positive a day after the ship pulled into San Diego on April 21 to disembark the 300-strong crew.  

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