Mystery aboard US Navy ship as 13 sailors test positive again

The sailors were all previously asymptomatic with COVID-19.

By Morgan Winsor

ABC News – A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 315,000 people worldwide.

Over 4.7 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 89,564 deaths.

At least 13 U.S. Navy sailors who were previously asymptomatic with COVID-19 have tested positive again after returning to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a defense official told ABC News.

Navy officials aren’t sure what’s going on as the sailors had all cleared the protocols to reboard the coronavirus-stricken ship — completing a 14-day quarantine and testing negative for the virus twice over the following four days. The sailors weren’t working together so it appears they didn’t infect each other aboard the ship, according to the defense official.

It’s possible the tests are picking up remnants of the novel coronavirus in the sailors. But after being asymptomatic for almost three weeks, all 13 sailors are experiencing mild body aches and headaches. Those symptoms led to tests that showed they were all positive for COVID-19 a second time, the defense official said.

When the first sailor described having the body aches and headaches, Navy medical teams urged previously positive and asymptomatic sailors to step forward if they were experiencing the same symptoms. Those who said they had the symptoms all tested positive for the virus again, according to the defense official.

The mystery comes as more than 2,900 sailors have returned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt to prepare for its eventual departure from Guam. The 97,000-ton aircraft carrier was forced to dock at the strategic naval base on the U.S. island territory on March 27 due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the roughly 5,000 crew members.

At least 940 sailors had tested positive and were immediately placed in isolation while the more than 4,000 who tested negative were quarantined in hotels and other facilities ashore. Some 700 sailors remained on board to deep clean the ship and run essential services before beginning their isolation period as crew members who were deemed virus-free took over, according to a press release in late April from the U.S. 7th Fleet.

The Navy announced on Sunday night that the USS Theodore Roosevelt will now begin a “fast cruise” pier-side in Guam to simulate the ship’s operations at sea ahead of its departure, which appears to be imminent.

Another defense official had told ABC News last week that one plan under consideration is to set sail without the full crew on board while still having the right number for all of the essential tasks.

“After safely completing fast cruise, Theodore Roosevelt and its crew will be one step closer to going to sea to conduct carrier qualification flights for Carrier Air Wing 11,” the 7th Fleet said in a press release on Sunday. “The remainder of the crew will return to the ship following the air wing integration.”

ABC News’ Ibtissem Guenfoud, Luis Martinez, Phoebe Natanson, Eric Strauss and Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.

Categories: National News, News