Sailors on the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt have stepped up cleaning measures after one officer died of the disease and the former captain was sacked over criticizing the Navy’s outbreak response.
Following the controversial handling of coronavirus cases on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy revealed in a statement that it had doubled down on sanitation.
Photos showed sailors in protective gear including gloves, face masks and gowns, disinfecting the ship.
The US Navy revealed that sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have begun deep cleaning the ship amid coronavirus cases
Navy officials claim that more than 80 percent of the ship has been sanitized recently
Cmdr. Chad Hollinger, the ship’s weapon’s officer, is charged with leading the cleaning crew. Sailors have begun to call him ‘Mr. Clean.’
‘The team’s mission is to fully sanitize the ship. To complete the mission we are going to clean this ship from top-to-bottom and forward-to-aft to create a clean zone for everyone coming back to the ship, so we can get back to business,’ he said.
‘We are focused on taking care of the Sailor’s health and ensuring the ship’s crew is following all centers for disease control and prevention guidelines to include personal protective equipment (PPE).’
As of Thursday, 655 sailors tested positive for COVID-19 out of the nearly 4,800 typically aboard the ship.
The US Navy said cleaning the USS Theodore Roosevelt is an ‘all hands effort’ that includes a roving cleaning team and what sailors refer to as ‘bleach-a-palooza.’
Bleach-a-palooza takes place at the beginning and end of each day, according to one sailor responsible for distributing cleaning solution.
‘I have been here since day one of bleach-a-palooza,’ they said.
‘Supply and medical work hand-in-hand to monitor every department on the ship to make sure they’re cleaning twice a day. If they want to clean after hours we support that as well.’
The USS Theodore Roosevelt was the center of a COVID-19 outbreak in March after crew members tested positive for the disease
Sailors who clean are required to wear googles, gloves, face masks and coveralls.
Hollinger said sailors have benefited most from large area sprayers that can cover a wide space in less time.
He also claimed that sailors have cleaned more than 2,000 spaces and 80 percent of the ship.
On Monday, Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, died of COVID-19 at US Naval Hospital in Guam.
Symantha Thacker, an active-duty service member stationed in San Diego, flew to Guam to be by her husband’s side, the Navy said.
A photo provided by the US Navy shows Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who died from the coronavirus on Monday at US Naval Hospital Guam
Symantha Thacker, an active-duty service member stationed in San Diego, flew to Guam to be by her husband’s side, the Navy said
He was the first active-duty military member to die of COVID-19.
He died 11 days after his captain, Brett Crozier, was fired for pressing the Navy to take greater action to safeguard his crew from the virus.
Thacker had tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30 and was taken off the ship and placed in ‘isolation housing’ along with four other sailors at the Guam Navy hospital.
He tested positive the same day that a letter written by the ship’s captain begging the Navy high command to evacuate the virus-stricken vessel leaked to the press.
On April 9, Thacker was found unresponsive during a medical check and was moved to the Navy Hospital’s intensive care unit.
At least two sailors are currently in the ICU and three others in the general ward at Naval Hospital Guam.
Inklings of trouble aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt struck in late March after Crozier sent a memo to Navy officials over coronavirus concerns.
He accused the Navy of failing to adequately respond to the COVID-19 outbreak on his ship and that doing so risked the lives of his crew.
‘Keeping over 4000 young men and women aboard the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care,’ he wrote.
Former USS Theodore Roosevelt Cpt. Brian Crozier (pictured) wrote a memo and pleaded for additional assistance with the COVID-19 outbreak on his ship
He urged officials to allow the bulk of crew members to evacuate that ship, which was stationed off the coast of Guam, over fears that infections could spike if not mediated.
‘We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,’ he wrote. ‘If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailor.’
It would later be discovered that Crozier contracted COVID-19 while he captained the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Crozier also claimed that he should have done more when the ship reached Guam to ensure that the sailors were able to leave the ship at a faster rate.
At the time, the disembarkation had been slow and the vast majority of the crew remained on board despite the increasing number of cases as officials searched for hotel space where the sailors could quarantine.
Crozier’s calls for help were initially dismissed by Pentagon officials, including US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Esper said in an interview with CBS that he did not think the USS Theodore Roosevelt needed to evacuated at that time.
He also admitted that he did not read Crozier’s letter beforehand.
‘Well, I have not had a chance to read that letter, read in detail,’ he said.
‘I’m going to rely on the Navy chain of command to go out there to assess the situation and to make sure they provide the captain and the crew all the support they need to get the sailors healthy and get the ship back at sea.’
Esper did not respond to Crozier’s proposal directly during the CBS News interview, but said the military is sending supplies and additional medical support to the carrier ‘as they need it’.
The DoD secretary’s comment’s were backed by Pacific Fleet Commander Adam John Aquilino, who on Tuesday said he is working as fast as he can to get a plan in place to rotate sailors off the ship.
Of Crozier’s request, Aquilino said: ‘We’ve been working it in advance, we continue to work it, and I’m optimistic that the additional quarantine and isolation capacity being discussed will be delivered shortly.
‘But there has never been an intent to take all the sailors off of that ship. If that ship needed to respond to a crisis today, it would respond.’
Officials later reversed course and evacuated the ship. Then, they fired Crozier from his position despite outcries from his crew.
Former Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier was dismissed because he put his crew members at risk for COVID-19 and for allegedly sending the memo to 30 people.
It was later revealed by The Washington Post that the memo was only shared with 10 people – not the 30 people Esper initially claimed.
Modly said: ‘It [sending the letter] raised concerns about the operational capabilities of that ship… that could have emboldened our adversaries to seek advantage.
Former Navy Secretary Thomas Modly (pictured), who was later fired from his position, said Crozier was dismissed from his post because of poor management
‘For these reasons I lost confidence in his ability to lead that warship.
‘We should expect more from commanding officer of our aircraft carriers.
‘Captain Crozier allowed the complexity of the COVID outbreak on ship to overwhelm his professionalism.
‘Relieving him of command was in the best interest of the US Navy and the nation.’
Since the incident began, Modly was removed from his position.
President Donald Trump publicly agreed with officials over Crozier’s dismissal.
President Donald (pictured) agreed with the firing of Crozier and criticized him for his memo
‘He wrote a letter. A five-page letter from a captain. And the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate, I don’t think that’s appropriate,’ Trump said.
Crozier’s removal sparked swift backlash from crew members who believed he should have been promoted for his outbreak response.
Morale quickly fell among crew members and they clashed with Modly, who visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt and ridiculed Crozier.
He later apologized for calling Crozier ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ in his speech to crew members.
7th Fleet Vice Admiral Bill Merz said of the low morale: ‘There was lots of anxiety about the virus,’ Merz told CNN. ‘As you can imagine the morale covers the spectrum, considering what they have been through.’
‘[The crew is’] struggling in the wake of losing their CO and their perception of the lack of activity regarding fighting the virus,.’
Many were still reeling after Modly’s visit, in which he slammed the crew’s beloved captain as either ‘naïve’ or ‘stupid’ because his plea to Navy bosses went public.
‘They were visibly still upset about the secretary’s visit so I walked them through what I knew, which really was not much more than what everybody else knew,’ Merz said.
‘I think they just needed to tell somebody about how much that hurt them and disappointed them.’
Sailors gave Crozier an exuberant send off when he officially left his post in early April.
Recently, Esper said Crozier could potentially be reinstated. A decision on that has not publicly been disclosed.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Chief of Naval Operations say the fired USS Roosevelt captain could be reinstated
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it is possible that the fired captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt currently stationed in Guam could be reinstated to his post.
Captain Brett Crozier was dismissed by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly on April 2 in a scandal sparked by his letter pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (left) indicated Thursday that it’s possible Navy Capt. Brett Crozier (right) would be reinstated following his controversial April 2 dismissal after he sent a letter to nNavy leaders pleading with them to disembark the USS Theodore Roosevelt
He went outside of his normal chain of command to directly address Navy leaders about his concerns, pleading with officials to let the crew disembark and warning sailors would die if they were forced to remain on board.
His concerns rang true on Tuesday when a USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor died from coronavirus and the number of cases from the ship skyrocketed to 655.
Capt Crozier’s dismissal was condemned by sailors on the ship who cheered and clapped as he left for the final time but he may yet be reinstated, according to Esper and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, who would have the final say.
An investigation headed up by Esper was completed last week and is now making its way through the Navy’s chain of command before a decision is made.
‘It will come to me at some point in time. As I’m in the chain of command, I can’t comment on that further, but I got to keep an open mind with regard to everything,’ Esper told NBC News.
Esper was pushed on whether the decision to reinstate Capt. Crozier would mean that his firing was wrong in the first place but he refused to comment. The captain had been fired by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly.
Crozier was controversially fired by acting Navy secretary Thomas B. Modly (pictured) after the email leaked. Modly, meanwhile, has resigned after receiving blowback about his actions
‘We’ve got to take this one step at a time, let the investigation within the navy conclude itself … and we’ll make very reasoned opinions and judgement as this progresses,’ he responded.
He added that the Navy was working to return all sailors to health and that the majority of them were asymptomatic.
‘The important thing now is out sailors upon that ship and getting them back to sea and what we found, of the 600 or so infected, what’s disconcerting is the majority of those, 350 plus are asymptomatic,’ he said.
‘It has revealed a new dynamic of this virus that it can be carried by normal healthy people so we’ve learnt a lesson there, we communicate that to our broader force and we do everything we can to keep our force healthy and ready.’
His comments came after the New York Times reported that Adm. Michael M. Gilday, the chief of naval operations who would have the final say, has indicated that he may reinstate Captain Crozier.
‘I am taking no options off the table as I review that investigation,’ he told reporters.
‘I think that is my responsibility.’
He had previously warned Acting Secretary Modley not to fire Crozier.
Although the Navy’s decision would lie with Adm. Gilday, a move to reinstate the captain could be upended by President Donald Trump, who has already expressed his disapproval at Crozier’s actions.
The president has become involved in naval disputes before.
Guam residents worry after 1,700 sailors are released from coronavirus-hit ship USS Theodore Roosevelt
People in Guam are nervous as hundreds of sailors from a coronavirus-stricken Navy aircraft carrier flood into hotels for quarantine, with thousands more expected soon.
USS Theodore Roosevelt has been docked in the U.S. territory for more than a week as the 4,865-person crew is tested for the virus and moved ashore. More than 400 sailors have been confirmed infected, and one was hospitalized Thursday in intensive care, said Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
More than 1,700 sailors who have tested negative are isolating in hotels, while the sick remain on base, Navy officials said.
‘Our people are getting slapped in the face,’ said Hope Cristobal, who worries officials are making promises about safety they won’t keep.
A Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency vehicle pulls up to a security checkpoint positioned on the road leading to the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa in Tumon, Guam on Thursday. The hotel, as well as several others that normally cater to the island’s tourism industry, are currently being used to isolate some of the thousands of military personnel who serve aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt
She lives less than a quarter-mile from hotels in Tumon, Guam’s version of Hawaii’s popular Waikiki neighborhood, saying, ‘We don’t know exactly where they’re being housed.’
Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, declined to identify the hotels but said as many as 10 have been set aside to house up to 4,000 sailors. Seven of them had already stopped taking reservations and seen a dramatic drop in visitors as airlines canceled flights, she said.
Residents are used to a constant U.S. military presence on the strategic Pacific island.
Guam’s hotels frequently host military members, and the Department of Defense controls about a third of the island, which is 3,800 miles (6,115 kilometers) west of Honolulu and a crucial, strategic hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific.
Officials insist they have enforced strict safety measures.
A man, who identified himself as a crew member of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, exercises out on the balcony of a room at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, in Tumon, Guam on Thursday
In this photo taken April 7 2020, provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors and staff assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt listen as Vice Adm. William Merz, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, answers questions during a visit to the ship at Naval Base Guam
Each sailor is staying in a room stocked with two weeks’ worth of linens, towels and water, Rhodes said. There is no contact with hotel workers, and only military police and medical teams can visit.
The Navy has sent masks, gloves and other safety equipment to the hotels, where employees make food that military personnel deliver, Rhodes said.
Not including the sailors, Guam has 133 confirmed coronavirus cases and five deaths as of Saturday.
Officials are focused on stopping the spread of the virus, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said as she announced that sailors could stay in hotels.
‘I know there will be a small chorus of cynics who will oppose this decision, but now is not the time for “us versus them,”‘ she told reporters April 1. ‘We can protect Guam while being humane to them.’
The Rev. Fran Hezel said people likely aren’t that upset about the move.
‘Frankly, I don´t think it’s much of an issue, because I think that people have bigger fish to fry,’ said Hezel, parish priest at Santa Barbara Catholic Church in Dededo, Guam’s most populated village.
People mostly are sympathetic because many in Guam are in the Navy or have relatives who are.
‘I’ve come to the conclusion that Guam … has got as deep links with the military as it does with the Catholic faith,’ he said, noting that the vast majority of people on the island are Catholic.
In this April 7, 2020, photo, released by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, are checked at local hotels in Guam in an effort to implement social distancing
The sailors’ quarantine is actually benefiting some smaller hotels, said Rhodes of the hotel association. The Navy has taken over hotels with more than 300 rooms, and other guests have been moved to smaller properties that are struggling amid cancellations.
Rhodes said ‘necessary measures’ are in place to safeguard the public.
Those assurances aren’t enough for Cristobal and others. She said the sailors are adding to an already stressful situation: ‘I have shortness of breath, and I’m wondering if it’s COVID or is it my anxiety.’
Some are urging the governor to reconsider allowing the sailors to stay in hotels, including I Hagan Famalaoan Guahan, a group that supports women who are Chamorro, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, which include Guam.
‘Being negative today doesn´t mean that they won´t be in a week or so,’ the group said in a statement. ‘The decision to house them in the middle of our community is playing a game of chance with the health of our people.’