Navy recommends reinstating captain of coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier

By Amanda Macias

  • The U.S. Navy's top officials recommended Friday that the captain relieved of duty after sounding the alarm of a growing coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier should be reinstated. 
  • The decision to reinstate Navy Capt. Brett Crozier's command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sits with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. 

Captain Brett Crozier addresses the crew for the first time as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a change of command ceremony on the ship's flight deck in San Diego, California, U.S. November 1, 2019.

U.S. Navy | Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Lynch | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy's top officials recommended Friday that the captain relieved of duty after sounding the alarm of a growing coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier should be reinstated, The New York Times reports.

The decision to reinstate Navy Capt. Brett Crozier's command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sits with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. The Pentagon boss, who was briefed on the recommendations following a U.S. Navy investigation, has yet to sign off on the reinstatement of the captain. He is expected to make a decision Friday.

The latest revelation follows a messy string of events that resulted in the resignation of acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. 

Crozier was relieved by Modly after the captain's letter pleading for help to mitigate the spread of the virus aboard the aircraft carrier was leaked to the media. Modly then took a 35-hour trip, which cost taxpayers $243,000, to address the crew of the Roosevelt. 

In the address, delivered via the ship's loudspeaker, Modly doubled down on his decision to relieve Crozier and called the former vessel's captain "naive" and "stupid." Hours later Modly issued an apology to the Navy.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly speaks at a Pentagon press briefing, Washington, D.C., April 2, 2020.

Lisa Ferdinando | Department of Defense

"I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused," he said in a statement April 6. 

A day later, Modly handed in his resignation to Esper, who then announced that he had tapped James McPherson, undersecretary of the Army, to be the new acting Navy secretary.

In a four-page letter, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier described a worsening coronavirus outbreak aboard the warship, a temporary home to more than 4,000 crew members. At the time, more than 100 people on the ship were infected.

"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors," Crozier wrote. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating."

Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck in the eastern Pacific Ocean December 19, 2019.

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh | US Navy

The coronavirus exposure aboard the Roosevelt, which is docked in Guam, followed a recently completed port call to Da Nang, Vietnam. 

Fifteen days after leaving Vietnam, three sailors from the Roosevelt tested positive for the virus. The infections were the first reports of the coronavirus on a U.S. Navy vessel at sea.

As of Friday, all crewmembers of the Roosevelt have been tested for the coronavirus, with 856 positive cases. Of the total cases, 88 sailors have recovered and one sailor died.

Crozier, who contracted the virus, is in the distinguished visitors quarter at a Navy base in Guam, the Times article said. He is waiting for confirmation that he no longer has the virus one of his friends said, according to the publication.