There are 26 US Navy warships currently who have reported positive coronavirus cases onboard, while 14 other ships were also hit by the deadly virus but the crew members have who contracted the contagion have recovered, a senior Navy official told CNN on Wednesday.
The 26 ships with current cases are in port or maintenance yards, the official stressed.
The Navy is not releasing the names of the individual ships impacted or the exact number of cases because Defense Department policy states that it would risk operational security if the details became public.
There are currently 90 ships at sea with no reported cases and the Navy currently has 297 active duty warships.
As of Wednesday morning, 3,578 US service members have tested positive for the virus, including two deaths. Nearly 800 of those cases have come from the outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier where one sailor also died.
More than 4,000 sailors on the Roosevelt had been moved ashore and were scheduled to begin returning to the ship this coming weekend after finishing a 14-day isolation period but that process has been paused because 120 previously asymptomatic sailors tested positive.
As a result the Navy has decided to keep all personnel already ashore in place until it can learn more about how the virus remains active in an asymptomatic person.
In a message to his forces obtained by CNN, Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral John Aquilino directed the halting of the release of crew members from “isolation and quarantine” over concerns some may test positive after being released. He added that “that this will delay progress” towards “deploying units” and emphasized “we must take this action to ensure we get underway with healthy crews.”
The Roosevelt’s commander Capt. Brett Crozier was fired earlier this month for what the then acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said was poor judgment for too widely disseminating a warning about the spread of virus aboard his vessel, a warning that eventually made its way into the press.
Modly resigned days later over his handling of the incident, actions which included a $240,000 trip to Guam where he slammed Crozier and admonished sailors for giving him a rousing send off in public remarks to the crew.
Last week the Navy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation into the outbreak aboard the Roosevelt.
That inquiry will look to establish the origin of the outbreak and understand how it spread rapidly on board the ship.
The results of a separate Navy investigation into the circumstances of Crozier’s memo is expected soon and it is possible he could be reinstated.
“This is a stealthy virus in many ways and this outbreak investigation is an important medical weapon to understand its behaviour so that we can better protect the crew, their shipmates on other vessels and ultimately the nation,” Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, US Navy Surgeon General said on Friday.
To carry out the investigation, crew members are being asked on a voluntary basis to complete a survey and provide two new specimens — blood and nasal swabs — for laboratory testing, according to the Navy. It hopes to get 1,000 volunteers which is what it believes is needed for representative sampling.