U.S. Navy Relieves Aircraft Carrier Commander Who Urged Swift Coronavirus Action

The U.S. Navy relieved the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt’s captain of his command on Thursday, punishing him for the leak of a scathing letter he sent to superiors that sought stronger measures for curbing a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship, Reuters writes.

The removal of Captain Brett Crozier, first reported by Reuters, was announced by acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who said the senior officer of the nuclear-powered vessel of 5,000 crew members had exercised poor judgment in the way he “broadly” distributed his letter.

The dismissal, two days after the captain’s letter leaked, demonstrated how the coronavirus has challenged all manner of U.S. institutions, even those accustomed to dangerous and complex missions like the U.S. military.

His removal could have a chilling effect on others in the Navy seeking to draw attention to difficulties faced at a time when the Pentagon is withholding some detailed data about coronavirus infections to avoid undermining the perception of U.S. military readiness for a crisis or conflict.

Reuters first reported last week that the U.S. armed forces would start keeping from the public some data about infections within its ranks. Modly said Crozier’s letter was sent through the chain of command but that the captain failed to safeguard its confidentiality, Reuters added.

“I have no information nor am I trying to suggest that he leaked the information,” Modly told a news conference. “He sent it out pretty broadly, and in sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked, and that’s part of his responsibility.”

About 1,000 sailors – a fifth of Crozier’s crew – were taken off the vessel at the Navy base on Guam, a U.S. island territory in the western Pacific, and placed in quarantine on Wednesday, a week after the first coronavirus case was reported on the carrier.

A total of 114 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the highly contagious virus, Rear Admiral John Menoni, the region’s top Navy commander, told reporters in Guam on Thursday.

The evacuated sailors were being transported in groups to vacant hotels on the island to complete a two-week quarantine, he said.

Although the Navy has said 2,700 crew would ultimately be quarantined off the ship, Menoni insisted on Wednesday the carrier “could go to sea tomorrow” if necessary.

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