WASHINGTON — About two dozen sailors on a U.S. Navy warship — or roughly 25 percent of the crew — have now tested positive for COVID-19, keeping the ship sidelined in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Monday, according to U.S. defense officials.
The USS Milwaukee has a crew of a bit more than 100, and it was forced to pause its deployment late last week because of the coronavirus outbreak. The defense officials, who spoke on condition Monday of anonymity to discuss details of the outbreak, said that the number of infected sailors is staying relatively constant at this point.
The USS Milwaukee, a smaller, more stealthy combat ship, is staying in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. It is the first Navy ship this year to have to interrupt its deployment at sea — others were sidelined during the early months of the virus outbreak last year.
It began its deployment from Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 14, and had stopped for a scheduled port visit. The ship was heading into the U.S. Southern Command region.
The Navy said in a statement Friday that the ship’s crew is “100 percent immunized” and that all of those who tested positive for COVID-19 were being isolated on the ship away from other crew members. The Navy has declined to release the number of infected sailors.
The officials said Monday that the Navy believes the total vaccination of the crew is the key factor in controlling the outbreak.
According to the Navy’s statement, “a portion” of those infected are having mild symptoms, and that the specific variant is not yet known. COVID-19 cases have surged across the country as a result of the highly contagious omicron variant.
The first major military outbreak of the virus was early last year on a Navy warship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that was operating in the Pacific. The Roosevelt was sidelined in Guam for nearly two months, and more than 1,000 of the 4,800 crew members tested positive. One sailor died, and the entire crew went through weeks of quarantine in a rotation that kept enough sailors on the ship to keep it safe and running.
According to the latest data released by the Navy, more than 98% of all active-duty sailors have been fully vaccinated.
Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press