China exploited virus outbreak on U.S. aircraft carrier; USS Theodore Roosevelt back at sea

by WorldTribune Staff, June 5, 2020

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was sidelined for nearly two months after a coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier, is back at sea.

On May 21, the Navy Times reported that the carrier had returned to sea for training in preparation for a resumption of duty in the Pacific.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt. / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alexander Williams

“It feels great to be back at sea,” Rear Adm. Stu Baker, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9, said in a statement. “Getting Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing 11 one step closer to returning to their mission in the Indo-Pacific is a great achievement for the crew.”

The USS Theodore Roosevelt had been docked in Guam since March 27, as the 4,800 crew members went through rotations of quarantine as more than 1,000 of them tested positive for the coronavirus. The carrier was patrolling the Western Pacific when it diverted to Guam.

While the U.S. carrier was out of action, China took full advantage.

Reporting for on April 14, Richard Fisher noted that, on April 10, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and PLA Air Force (PLAAF) conducted simultaneous exercises for the purpose of preparing for war against Taiwan.

Aerial exercises South of Taiwan near the Bashi Strait were identified by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense officials, which included the use of H-6 bombers, KJ-500 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and J-11 long-range fighters.

On April 11, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Liaoning, China’s first operational aircraft carrier, and five accompanying warships passed through the Miyako Strait, located between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of Taiwan.

On April 12, the Liaoning’s carrier group, which includes two missile destroyers, two missile frigates, and a supply ship, sailed in waters on Taiwan’s east coast and then into seas to the south of Taiwan, carrying out exercises, the Taiwan ministry said.

The April 10 exercises marked the first known time that the PLA has bracketed Taiwan with aerial exercises in the South and naval exercises in the North and East, Fisher’s report said.

Such exercises will prepare the PLA to undertake a “Blockade Campaign” against Taiwan, which would most likely include trying to destroy United States ships and aircraft attempting to defend Taiwan.

Upon returning to sea, the U.S. Navy said the USS Theodore Roosevelt plans to conduct required carrier qualifications for about two weeks, including recertification of the flight deck and fighter squadron, such as takeoffs and landings on the carrier. The ship will then return to Guam and pick up healthy crew members. If all goes well, it will set out again to conduct operations before eventually heading home to San Diego.

The carrier’s commander, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, wrote in a Facebook post: “To this date, since returning TR to sea two weeks ago, we continue to sail and operate with no return of the virus onboard. The Rough Riders and our families’ tenacity and resiliency in the face of uncertainty has been put to the test and met the challenge.”

The Navy reported 1,102 cases on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and one reported death, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. The Navy has not disclosed whether Thacker suffered from any underlying health conditions.

Most enlisted sailors are under 30-years-old.

“Doing some simple math, COVID-19 aboard the Theodore Roosevelt had a death rate of 0.09 percent, while the estimated death rate for the seasonal flu is 0.1 percent,” Maclen Stanley noted in a June 1 report for The Federalist. “This data point offers incredibly useful insight into how COVID-19 affects a young and healthy population.”

Stanley noted that a similarly low death rate was reported on France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, where more than 1,000 sailors contracted the virus but zero died.

The aircraft carrier death rates are even lower than estimates in a new CDC report, which estimates the death rate for people under 50 at only 0.05 percent.

“General population-based data suggests that young populations tend to fare well, with only 14 people between 20 and 29 years old dying from COVID-19 in Italy, an early hotspot,” Stanley noted. “The death rate for those who are not only relatively young, but also healthy and physically fit, might be far lower than previously imagined.”

The data from the USS Theodore Roosevelt and other military vessels “must be brought to light and discussed,” Stanley wrote. “Public health policy might benefit from a shift toward strongly shielding the vulnerable in our population but allowing the economy to open for those who are relatively young and healthy.”

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