The Pentagon’s inspector general will launch a review of the Navy’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, the watchdog announced Monday, with a focus on whether Navy leaders took strong enough action to stop the spread of the virus on ships and whether their plan was effectively implemented across the U.S. fleet.
The examination, which will begin before the end of the month, comes amid high case counts aboard American ships and the weekend’s startling news that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday would self-isolate after potential contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
As of Monday, the Navy had at least 2,162 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — by far the most of any military service. The inspector general’s review will examine whether the Navy took strong enough action to prevent such a high case count.
“The objective of this evaluation is to determine whether the Navy has implemented policies and procedures to prevent and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus-disease-2019 (COVID-19), on ships and submarines,” the watchdog said in a statement. “In addition, we will determine whether mitigation measures that are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 were implemented across the fleet. We may revise the objective as the evaluation proceeds, and we will also consider suggestions from management for additional or revised objectives.”
The Navy’s response to the coronavirus has been in the spotlight since an outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt ultimately led to the dismissal of the ship’s leader, Capt. Brett Crozier. Capt. Crozier wrote a letter to Navy leaders pleading for help and warning that the situation on his vessel was dire, and that sailors would likely die without a stronger response.
The ship was eventually forced to dock in Guam as the case count rose. After Capt. Crozier’s dismissal in early April, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned over his handling of the matter, which included a controversial visit to the Roosevelt during which he seemed to suggest Capt. Crozier was “stupid” for writing the letter.
Military officials are now conducting a thorough investigation of the ordeal. It’s possible Capt. Crozier ultimately could return to his former post aboard the Roosevelt.
The Navy also has seen an outbreak aboard the USS Kidd.
The most recent count shows 2,162 cases in the Navy, compared to 1,122 in the Army and 1,037 in the National Guard Bureau. The Air Force and Marine Corps have 417 and 460 confirmed cases, respectively.
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