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Report: Navy captain fired after requesting COVID-19 help tests positive for novel coronavirus

Capt. Brett Crozier’s letter requested more resources and "decisive action" from leadership as the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew battled a COVID-19 outbreak.
Credit: AP
In this photo U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck while conducting routine operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. defense leaders are backing the Navy's decision to fire the ship captain who sought help for his coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier, even as videos showed his sailors cheering him as he walked off the vessel. Videos went viral on social media Friday, April 3, 2020, showing hundreds of sailors gathered on the ship chanting and applauding Navy Capt. Brett Crozier as he walked down the ramp, turned, saluted, waved and got into a waiting car. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh via AP)

SAN DIEGO — The captain of a San Diego-based nuclear aircraft carrier has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by the New York Times, after he was fired last week following his request for help in battling a coronavirus outbreak on the ship. Capt. Brett Crozier’s highly-publicized letter requested more resources and "decisive action" from Navy leadership as the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew battled the outbreak while docked in Guam. On Thursday, the US. Navy relieved him of his duty. 

The NYT cites two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s “who are close to him and his family” as the sources who say he has the novel coronavirus. 

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and Adm. Michael M. Gilday said during a Pentagon news conference last week that the Navy "lost confidence" in Capt. Brett Crozier's leadership following his letter to Navy brass asking to immediately offload the majority of the ship's crew once COVID-19 cases began cropping up onboard. 

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Though Modly credited Crozier for voicing his concerns, he said the letter misrepresented the state of the situation on board, incited panic, and created the perception that the Navy was only responding to assist the sailors because of his letter. 

Modly said Crozier sent the letter up the chain of command but also copied the email to "20 or 30 other people," which may have been conducive to its eventual leak to the media. 

Modly said he has no information to suggest Crozier directly leaked the letter, which first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday. Modly did note that the letter was first publicized in Crozier's "hometown paper." Crozier is a Santa Rosa native. 

The Navy was working to move nearly 3,000 of the ship's sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt as of Thursday. Over 100 sailors from the Roosevelt had tested positive for COVID-19, Modly said. He said most were displaying mild symptoms and none had required hospitalization. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the firing of Crozier on Sunday as a case of holding leaders “accountable,” according to the Associated Press. Esper also said the matter is under review.  

Esper said Modly made a “very tough decision” to oust Capt. Crozier of command because Modly had lost “faith and confidence” in the commander. Esper said he supported the decision but declined to explicitly say whether he agreed with Modly’s assessment.  

The secretary noted there's “an investigation ongoing.” 

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View all News 8 coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19  
 
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We also have a Frequently Asked Questions page we will continue updating with the latest information and reports.  

Click here to watch "Facts Not Fear," a News 8 Special on coronavirus from March 26, 2020. 

BACKGROUND:  

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.  

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, as with any other respiratory illness:  

Know how it spreads

  • There is no vaccine  

  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus 

  • It is thought to spread mainly from person-person between people in close contact 

  • And believed to be spread by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes 

Protect yourself 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds 

  • If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick 

  • Put distance between yourselves and others 

Protect others 

  • Stay home when you are sick 

  • Wear a facemask if you are sick 

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash 

  • If you don't have tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow 

  • Immediately wash your hands after coughing and sneezing  

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe 

You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page. 

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.  

The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses. 

While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders. 

 

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