Squadron Removed from Gerald R. Ford Due to COVID-19 Scare

Gerald R. Ford at sea on an earlier cruise - U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt

Published May 29, 2020 10:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is removing a strike fighter squadron from the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford due to a COVID-19 scare involving a sailor who tested positive for the virus. While the sailor that tested positive for the disease had not been aboard the carrier and is currently in isolation, the Navy believed that the sailor had been in close proximity to the squadron. The Gerald R. Ford proceeded to sea as planned

The squadron had boarded the carrier to prepare for ongoing carrier qualifications but was removed from the Ford before the carrier sailed from its base in Norfolk, Virginia. The team’s movements are also being restricted at this time because of possible exposure to the virus. The sailors reportedly had all been screened before joining the carrier and none of them were showing any symptoms of the virus. However, they will now undergo further screening before returning to full duty.

These developments came just days after the U.S. Navy issued new fleetwide guidance for managing during the public health emergency. The new requirements include a series of steps prior to deployment such as a health screening, a minimum of 14 days in "sequestered status," and adherence to preventative measures like masks and handwashing while underway.   

The Navy is working to overcome several very high profile incidents of the virus. According to The Virginia Pilot newspaper, this was the second scare for the Gerald R. Ford which had another sailor test positive for the disease at the beginning of May. That sailor also was not aboard the carrier at the time he tested positive for the virus, but the Navy disinfected the areas where the sailor had been aboard the vessel and quarantined a number of sailors that had come in direct contact with this individual.

In March, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt had a high profile outbreak of the virus that generated extensive media coverage. The carrier returned to its base on Guam where it was determined that the virus had spread throughout the crew. The crew was later disembarked for quarantine and testing. Over 1,000 of the nearly 5,000 sailors aboard the carrier ultimately tested positive for the disease with one dying from COVID-19.

Other vessels in the Navy have reportedly also been challenge to manage the virus, including the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was detained at sea after a reported smaller and contained outbreak of COVID-19. The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd arrived at Naval Base San Diego on April 28 to receive medical care for its sailors following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Both the Theodore Roosevelt and the Kidd recently took their first steps to return to active duty while other vessels in the Navy have reported been held at sea in an attempt to prevent outbreaks of the virus.