WASHINGTON — A U.S. Navy sailor assigned to the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier died Monday from the disease after testing positive last month, the service confirmed in a statement.
"At approximately 8:30 a.m., Apr. 9, the Sailor was found unresponsive during a daily medical check. While Naval Base Guam emergency responders were notified, CPR was administered by fellow Sailors and onsite medical team in the house. The Sailor was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam where the Sailor was moved to the Intensive Care Unit. The Sailor was declared deceased April 13," the Navy wrote in a Monday statement.
The sailor's death is the first for one of the U.S. Navy's vessels at sea and comes as nearly 600 sailors on the ship tested positive for the coronavirus.
"Our thoughts are with the family of the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who lost his battle with the virus today," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement. "We remain committed to protecting our personnel and their families while continuing to assist in defeating this outbreak."
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said in a statement that "We mourn the loss of the Sailor from USS Theodore Roosevelt who died today, and we stand alongside their family, loved ones, and shipmates as they grieve. This is a great loss for the ship and for our Navy. My deepest sympathy goes out the family, and we pledge our full support to the ship and crew as they continue their fight against the coronavirus."
The growing outbreak threatening the crew aboard the Roosevelt was foreshadowed in a leaked letter penned last month by the ship's captain.
Capt. Brett Crozier urged senior military leaders to take dramatic steps to safeguard the sailors aboard the Roosevelt in a four-page letter.
"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors," Crozier wrote in the letter dated March 30. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating."
Shortly after the letter became public, Crozier was relieved of his command by then-acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. Crozier is believed to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Modly then took what became a controversial trip to Guam, costing taxpayers at least $243,000, to speak to the crew of the Roosevelt.
In the address, delivered via the ship's loudspeaker, Modly doubled down on his decision to relieve Crozier and called the former vessel's captain "naive" and "stupid." Hours later Modly issued an apology to the Navy.
"I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused," he said in a statement last Monday.
Backlash mounted for Modly's firing and followed President Donald Trump's own suggestion he might get involved in the crisis.
A day later, Modly handed in his resignation to Esper. The Defense secretary announced on Tuesday that he had tapped James McPherson, undersecretary of the Army, to be the new acting Navy secretary.
Last week, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon press briefing that the military must plan for more coronavirus infections across the Defense Department.
"I think it is not a good idea to think that the [Theodore Roosevelt] is a one-of-a-kind issue. ... To think that it will never happen again, is not a good way to plan," Hyten said.
The general added that there had been a small number of cases aboard another aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz. A U.S. official told Reuters that at least four of the Navy's 11 aircraft carriers have sailors who have tested positive for the coronavirus.