US Navy

Rising Navy Coronavirus Cases Put Heightened Tempo into Question

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the military should the U.S. military reevaluate who is considered Mission Essential

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Deployed San Diego-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is now pier side in Guam after at least two dozen sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 and it is not the only U.S. Navy ship with coronavirus cases.

“There’s clearly a need to strike a balance between force readiness the ability to deploy on a moment’s notice with the health and safety of crews,” said Andy Kopp, a fellow with the San Diego Chapter of the Truman National Security Project.

As the entire crew of some 5,000 sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt are tested, Kopp believed this could be an opportune time for the Navy to test who should be considered mission essential during a pandemic.

“We might be able to slow things down a little bit in particular as we’ve slowed down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years,” Kopp added.

The U.S. military has been operating on a heighten tempo since the September 11th terror attacks. The recent outbreak could be a signal that in order for the Navy to protect the nation and its fighting force, it is a time to consider new alternatives.

As of March 30th, the Navy has reported 245 cases of coronavirus that include active-duty service members, civilians, contractors and dependents. In San Diego, several bases have also reported cases of coronavirus.

While the Navy has put out new protocol for social distancing, disinfecting areas, and a reducing workforce -- some aren’t sure it is enough.

Civilians who work for the Navy and contractors told NBC 7 they were concerned about the spread of the virus.

Two San Diego shipyards were impacted by the virus after a shipyard employee at BAE Systems tested positive for coronavirus and another employee at General Dynamics NASSCO was under investigation.

And daycare workers at two Navy bases expressed concern after a parent of a child, and a worker tested positive at different centers.

Kopp said operating with skeleton crews and tiered system of essential personnel should ease the role of civilians too.

“The demand for their work will also slow down a little bit hopefully," he said.

Not only is the Navy coping with cases of COVID-19 they are assisting in the effort to combat. San Diego's MCAS Miramar has housed more than 500 people in need of federal quarantine.

Hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort have responded to assist major U.S. cities, New York and Los Angeles, in crisis because of the coronavirus.

As for security threats that could arise, Kopp, a former defense intelligence analyst, said even if the U.S. military takes steps to scale back due to the virus, the U.S. military will still be ready.

“We have the capacity to do that even while mitigating exposure among our service members."

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