The USS Theodore Roosevelt is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier that unintentionally became a coronavirus petri dish for nearly 5,000 sailors over a 3-week period cruising the Pacific this past March. You may have heard about the ship when the commander, Captain Brett Crozier, was fired after appealing to his superiors for help and what was felt to be an embarrassing situation for the Navy.
What is particularly interesting about the situation is that it is very difficult to hide in the cramped quarters of an aircraft carrier with 5000 people on board. Of 4950 sailors tested for coronavirus, 856 (17%) people tested positive for COVID-19, including the commander. Interestingly 50% were asymptomatic, that is, completely without symptoms. This suggests that although everyone was exposed during the ship’s voyage at sea 83% were spared, and another 8% did not know they had it. On March 27, the aircraft carrier finally docked in Guam and many service people were able to be treated and quarantined off the boat on the naval base and local hotels that had specially been re-opened for them. The entirecrew is being monitored for further development of the disease. One serviceman, 41 y.o. Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker died on 4-13 in Guam after coming down with the virus on 3-30. Several others in the ICU have since been discharged. Most of the sailors who tested positive are under the age of 30. The CDC and the Navy are currently studying everything about the ship’s crew, from medical records, blood work and movement on the carrier to learn as much as they can. These results will give scientists, epidemiologists and healthcare workers much more insight into the behavior of this pathogen. It is still unknown how the initial case started, whether brought on board from a supply aircraft or during the boat’s sojourn in Vietnam for 5 days in early March. So far the most astounding data is that 50% of those who tested positive have absolutely no symptoms. What does that mean for the population? Only time will tell.