Navy says no more USS TR, USS Kidd COVID-19 updates

Elizabeth Howe
May 04, 2020 - 12:15 pm
USS Theodore Roosevelt

DVIDS

As the USS Theodore Roosevelt works to return to sea and the outbreak aboard the USS Kidd develops, the Navy has said it will no longer be providing detailed updates about COVID-19 outbreaks on board its vessels. 

According to Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon wanted to move away from the pattern of "providing a daily tracker of minor changes." The policy shift is similar to a force-wide directive put in place by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the end of March. 

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“I’m not going to get into a habit where we start providing numbers across all the commands and we come to a point six, seven weeks from now where we have some concerns in some locations and reveal information that could put people at risk,” Esper said at the time. 

Now, Hoffman has shared similar comments regarding the Navy's future limitations on data. 

"If there was unfortunately an additional outbreak, we would provide information," Hoffman said at a Pentagon press briefing on Friday. "But we wanted to get out of the pattern of providing a daily tracker of minor changes in this. And I think that's a reasonable place to be." 

According to the Pentagon, now that both the USS TR and USS Kidd have both tested 100 percent of crew members, gone through cleaning processes, and begun work on returing crew members to the ship, daily updates no longer provide "useful information for a public conversation."

After testing 100 percent of its roughly 4,800-person crew, the USS TR reported more than 1,000 positive cases of COVID-19. According to the last update from the Navy, 53 of those sailors had recovered. The USS TR is currently in the process of bringing its sailors back to the vessel from isolation quarters around the island. The investigation into the dismissal of the vessel's commander is still underway. 

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The USS Kidd, meanwhile, has surpassed the USS TR's infection rate. While only 24 percent of the USS TR's crew tested positive for COVID-19, around 30 percent of the USS Kidd's much smaller crew had tested positive with 95 confirmed cases as of the Navy's last release. Within six days of reporting its very first COVID-19 case, the virus had been identified in 64 additional sailors. 

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The USS Kidd returned to port in San Diego shorlty after the first case was identified and testing is ongoing. Hoffman said that "lessons learned" from other cases were being applied in the USS Kidd's outbreak response.

During a webinar on Monday, Esper said that onboard a Navy vessel at sea was the "safest place to be" during the pandemic, implying that vessels face additional risks when they come into port as both the USS TR and USS Kidd did. 

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A USS TR sailor, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, remains the Department of Defense's only active-duty COVID-19 fatality. 

Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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