By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) On Wednesday, March 18, Kandit News asked the Joint Information Center about three LearJets on the flight radar flying from Andersen Air Force Base west, and disappearing in the middle of the Philippine Sea just outside Guam.
LearJets are small, specially-designed aircraft sometimes used in medevacs.
Today, media around the world is reporting that an aircraft carrier in our region - the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt - is flying three of its Naval sailors off the ship after testing positive for COVID-19. The aircraft carrier made a port visit to Guam on February 7.
Midday Tuesday, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam officials told the Guam Daily Post and the Pacific News Center in separate interviews that four people had tested positive for COVID-19 at USNH Guam. Within an hour of those media stations breaking that news, Joint Region Marianas issued a news release that seemed to contradict the information from its subsidiary USNH Guam.
"There are currently no positive COVID-19 cases at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam," the news release stated. The U.S. military confirmed that no patients were at USNH Guam at the time of its news release Tuesday afternoon. They did not refute USNH Guam's comments that four people tested positive at USNH Guam.
Multiple sources of information and one document confirm that by this past Sunday, USNH Guam was aware of at least one staffer who had tested positive for COVID-19, and was sent home to self quarantine, along with staffers who had been in contact with the confirmed case.
And now there is confirmation from the nation's Chief of Naval Operations that three sailors aboard an aircraft carrier in our region have tested positive.
"These are our first three cases of COVID-19 on a ship that is deployed," Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said.
"Those sailors are running a temperature and they have some body aches, but we wouldn't necessarily characterize them as requiring hospitalization," said Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations.
Multiple sources within Naval Base Guam are reporting that its barracks are being augmented.
On January 17 this year, the Navy announced that the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group was leaving its homeport in San Diego for a deployment to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
According to the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in a February 7, 2020 news release, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and an accompanying U.S.S. Pinckney guided-missile destroyer ship had ported at Apra Harbor, Guam. Its 6,000 sailors had planned to conduct "multiple community relations projects, shipboard tours and sporting events. Sailors will also have the chance to experience highlights of the area and local sights through tours organized by the ships’ Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs."
Kandit on February 8 published a story with images and video of sailors cleaning up the illegal dump site behind the Home Depot Guam.
The strike group then went on to Vietnam, where sailors had come off the ships in the city of Da Nang, about 500 miles from Hanoi, where COVID-19 cases were reported at that time.
According to a report published a few minutes ago by BreakingDefense:
"The infections aboard the ship, currently underway in the Pacific, presents the Navy with by far its most serious test in fighting the virus. The Nimitz-class ship is home to over 5,000 sailors who live, work and sleep in tight quarters, The small workspaces, narrow passageways, and cramped dining facilities aboard a ship make social distancing all but impossible, and the seeming ease with which the coronavirus spreads could present the ship’s crew with major problems.
"Despite fears that the three sailors could have infected dozens of other sailors, “we are not in a position right now to have to pull that ship in or to take that ship off the front lines,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told reporters at the Pentagon today.
"To help cope with the fact that no Navy ship at sea has any COVID-19 tests, the Navy has canceled port visits across the fleet for everything other than maintenance and supply runs.
"The cases were discovered when the sailors complained of high fevers and body aches. Since after which they were given a swab test. Given the lack of tests on the ship, the samples had to be flown to a DoD laboratory ashore, which conducted the tests and then contacted the ship at sea."
Kandit is awaiting confirmation from Joint Region Marianas whether those three sailors are being flown to Guam, whether the Roosevelt will port here, and how the Navy in Guam will handle such a situation.